Flashback - It was 1977. I was taking Biology at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City, Mo. My professor, Mr. Johnson, lectured extensively on problems such as overpopulation, pollution and energy. He sparked a passion in me concerning these issues.
I began visiting his office,browsing his personal book collection, asking him for recommendations and borrowing his books. I read such books as The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I don't recall the titles of all the books I borrowed and read from his office but I do know they had a profound affect on me.
After reading them, I would discuss the issues with him searching for answers. He had a wonderful way of making me aware of the many interrelationships between these problems.
Flash forward - It was 1979. My wife and I were students at the University of Washington. We didn't initially start out to form an organization. We first investigated existing ones we could involve ourselves in that were relevant such as Greenpeace, Crabshell Alliance and the Environmental Protection Agency. None of them were a good fit.
The US had suffered through two oil shortages due to cutoffs of Middle Eastern oil imports. The first oil crises had been back in 1973when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. During this time cars waited in long lines to fill up. At the time the 1973 "oil price shock", along with the 1973–1974 stock market crash, were regarded as the most severe economic event to happen since the Great Depression.
The second oil crisis happened in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. Amid massive protests, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, fled his country in early 1979 and the Ayatollah Khomeini soon became the new leader of Iran. Protests severely disrupted the Iranian oil sector, with production being greatly curtailed and exports suspended. When oil exports were later resumed under the new regime, they were inconsistent and at a lower volume, which pushed prices up. Widespread panic resulted, added to by the decision of U.S. President Jimmy Carter to order the cessation of Iranian imports driving the price far higher than would be expected under normal circumstances.
Due to memories of oil shortage in 1973, motorists soon began panic buying, and long lines appeared at gas stations, as they had six years earlier during the 1973 oil crisis.
This was the energy situation when we began our doomed attempt at establishing The American Rock.
I was also enrolled in a persuasive speaking class at the time. My first speech to the class concerned the existing atmosphere of apathy on American college campuses compared to the activism seen during the 60's and early 70's. I argued that even though the Vietnam War had ended, our problems had not gone away but were in fact getting worse. I wove the issues of overpopulation, pollution and our energy dependency into this speech drawing off my discussions and readings from my past biology class I had taken in 1977. I got a standing ovation.
Through a series of four more speeches, I linked together how if we, the people of America, especially the youth, could band together, for the cause of expansion of renewable energy resources, we could change the world for the better. During my last speech to the class, in the Winter of 1979, I made an appeal to them to become involved in an organization. Thirteen out of twenty-five said yes.
My wife and I immediately made plans for our initial organizational meeting the following week. Five days later, at 7:00pm, one out of the thirteen showed up. In the course of five days 13 supporters had dwindled to 1.
We sat there, bummed out and totally baffled. We had brought the cause to the audience and they had accepted it. We had told them a change was needed and how to make that change occur. They had supported it. We had reached out and they had reached back, but only for a moment.
After the feelings of complete failure passed, we started to analyze what had gone wrong. We found few answers, but settled for a combination of "Just not the right time or place". Then we realized something of great value. All of the steps can be taken, all of the loose ends can be tied and there is still the possibility of failure. We learned how important it is to be ready to activate an idea immediately after the energy of the audience is sparked and how quickly momentum is lost.
I started thinking. How do we get everybody involved because I knew that was the only way it could work? How do we get the ball rolling? Then it dawned on me. It wasn't a ball that needed to be rolled but a rock that needed to be moved. It was staring me right in the face. Rock music and the people that listen to and support it was a sleeping giant. If the energy, drive and money that was being put into rock music could somehow be tapped and directed into helping to solve our energy problems we could work miracles. Thus was born the idea of The American Rock. (This idea was conceived way before the birth of the Live Aid concerts by the way.)
Articles of incorporation were submitted for approval. From the archives:
Articles of Incorporation for an ASUW University of Washington campus organization.
Section 1: The name of this organization shall be "The American Rock".
Section 1: It shall be the purpose of this organization to promote and organize
benefit rock concerts in order to raise funds to:
support research in non-polluting renewable energy projects being
conducted by University academic departments and,
provide funding towards conservation improvements on campus. i.e.
student housing weatherization projects, recycling programs, car pooling
Section 2: Funding for projects will be determined by:
projected energy saved per dollar invested and,
a simple majority vote of the membership.
A logo was created. It consisted of a hand-sized granite rock with an American flag affixed to it.
A media campaign was drawn up. Teaser ads and articles were to be placed in the campus newspaper to entice curiosity.
A date was set for the launch. A venue for our first concert was secured and a band was hired for our first benefit concert.
The morning of the kickoff 2000 pounds of small granite rocks with American flags attached were placed about 25 yards apart along all major walkways on campus. The stage was set.
When the time came for me to give my speech a small crowd had gathered in curiosity to find out what exactly was "The American Rock". When I began it became immediately apparent that the PA system was inadequate. As a result a lot of the speech's punch was lost. I could literally feel the energy drain from the crowd. Curiosity quickly turned to apathy. It was hard to hear and the message fell on deaf ears as the crowd quietly wondered off.
A grand total of 6 tickets were sold for that evenings concert. We suffered a financial loss of about $2000.00 - a hard pill to swallow for a bunch of poor college students.
After this colossal failure the group made a few vain attempts to maintain momentum but they quickly faded as did the short-lived idea and promise of The American Rock. It was an idea who's time had not yet come!
So here we are 33 years later. I would like to say that I've been totally dedicating my life to energy issues and the environment but that has not been the case. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, my participation and motivation level has risen and fallen over the years.
Thirty-three years ago we didn't use the terms climate change and global warming. They weren't really part of the common lexicon. The world's population was 4,225,863,840. It is now over 7 billion. I had a lot more hope back then.
I hope the time to seriously address climate change has finally come. I am not overly optimistic. But thanks to all of you involved with putting together this blogathon, I now have "hope I can believe in".
I can't do anything about the sand that has already passed through my hourglass. I must deal with the present. I must take personal responsibility. I must guard against my apathy. I must try. Because as Gooserock said: "Time is wasting!"