Plan for the best, prepare for the worst, then enjoy what comes. Rick’s road map.
A major fork in the road emerged during the summer of 1973… to stay the path or take a hard left towards a far more radical future.
Rick grew up in Baldwin, Long Island, about a half hour from New York City. In 1973 he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Management and a year later his Master’s Degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, both from M.I.T. Although he specialized in airport noise abatement, two events led him to abandon this career in search of a gentler path. These 2 events formed the asphalt for the fork in his road.
His Master’s thesis pressed him, face to face, into the politics of airport noise. This exposure led him to acknowledge that the regulatory arena for noise abatement was a smoke screen designed and built to actually protect and insulate the commercial aviation industry from those oppressed by jet noise. Then, as an Assistant Operations Manager Intern at Boston’s Logan International Airport, he experienced the aftermath of a DC-9 crash that claimed 97 lives, confronting head on the realities of aviation technology. Rick walked the runway… in the darkness of night, lit up with large, mobile lighting, amidst thick ground fog… after the intact bodies had been removed. Horror replaced his fascination with large machines that flew.
Rick changed paths, and the road ahead became far from his earlier, linear march towards some mainstream job description. Instead of continuing to pursue this aviation thread, he and his wife spent nearly a year traveling around the U.S. while exploring our magnificent national park system. Avoiding the hordes, they visited parks off season; a backpack trip in each park was their high dream. They took to heart something Scott Russell Sanders said: “… I hope you’ll travel into country where the land obeys laws that people didn’t make. May you visit deep forests, where you can walk all day and never hear a sound except the scurry and calls of animals and the rustle of leaves and the silken stroke of your own heart.”
Biology and human ecology lit him up. So he chose to pursue secondary education, hoping to teach high schoolers about the plight of humanity slamming into the constraints of our grow-or-die paradigm. In this pursuit he came to Western Washington University for two quarters in order to add a biology endorsement to the teaching certificate he had earned in Massachusetts.
Completing WWU when local teaching jobs were non-existent, Rick began to do small remodeling jobs with some close friends while he hung on to his teaching dream by substitute teaching at Sehome and Bellingham High Schools. The opportunity then arose to purchase A-1 Builders from its aging owner and in 1976, almost on a whim, he purchased this tiny firm that specialized in foundations under existing homes.
Rick morphed A-1 Builders into a remodeling specialist, leaving this foundation work to others so that he could retain excellent employees who didn’t want to spend much time under existing structures. Who could blame them?
Success brought higher end work, sometimes at odds with his growing environmental ethic. Market pressure pressed A-1 in a direction divergent from his concerns for humanity, the environment and the built environment. Although he considered selling the company to extinguish his cognitive dissonance, he chose to follow a close friend’s advice to bring a strong environmental ethic into his company. The rest is history.
Here are some of the highlights of this history:
- He created Adaptations Design Studio in 1990 in order to offer the community a true design-build company. Adaptations also provides a showroom, offering clients the third leg of a project’s stool; material selection… specializing in cabinets, countertops, ceramic tile, flooring and more.
- Rick became a Board member of RE Sources a local environmental education non-profit, in 1993. Except for a year away to build his own home, he was their Board Vice-President or President from ‘93 to ’07. He left the Board in May of 2011. RE Sources’ most visible project is the RE Store, reselling used building materials with locations in Bellingham and Ballard.
- He anchored a popular talk show on remodeling and construction, called On The Level, on KGMI, 790 AM, every Saturday morning from 1991 through 1994. This experience laid the foundation for his more recent radio show about sustainability issues on KMRE FM.
- Rick served as the President of the Master Remodelors’ Association, an active committee within our local Building Industry Association, in 1994.
- He graduated as a Master Home Environmentalist (MHE) in the spring of ’98. The MHE program is a best-practices program offered by the American Lung Association of Washington. Its focus: properly managing the materials, systems (especially ventilation) and practices within one’s home to optimize indoor air quality and the respiratory health of its inhabitants.
- Rick co-founded Sustainable Connections in 1998, a local, non-profit business alliance to promote and support local businesses working towards sustainable business practices. He became their first Board President, serving in this role for three years. During his watch the organization grew from no members to over 600 business members in 2007, the final year of his Board tenure!
- In 2001, Rick was chosen by Governor Locke to attend the Leadership Summit for a Sustainable Washington. This conference drew together the top 100 experts on sustainability to help create a sustainability plan for Washington State. It’s also where Rick met Michelle Long, another summit attendee, which laid the groundwork for Michelle’s future as the first Executive Director of Sustainable Connections.
- In 2008 Rick was selected by Mayor Pike and County Executive Kremen to serve on the 18-member Energy Resource Scarcity/Peak Oil Task Force (ERSPO).
- In 2008 Rick helped to spearhead the creation of the first official chapter of Futurewise: Futurewise Whatcom. This organization seeks to insure that the Growth Management Act (GMA) works for our citizens, as opposed to being used as a pawn by the development community.
- In 2009 Rick helped birth Transition Whatcom a local organization which seeks to build community resilience to address the impending issues of peak oil and global climate change.
- Transition Whatcom’s Great Unleashing birthed a discussion group about local democracy. This led to his discovery of Thomas Linzey and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), an organization focusing upon local governance, as well as rights of nature. Rick helped create Living Democracy, which birthed Coal-Free Bellingham and its hopeful ballot initiative to protect our community from 18 mile-and-a-half long coal trains from rumbling thru this town. The insanity of continuing to support the burning of coal… while Rome is burning… made no sense to Rick. None.
The backbone of Rick’s activism has been confronting the immense power, momentum, and destruction of commerce. He agrees with Paul Hawken’s comment that“… there’s no polite way to say that business is destroying the world.” Regulating business is clearly not working. Nearly every indicator of environmental health continues to plunge, though we’ve had what at first glance were impressive environmental laws for over forty years. Again, a core belief or Rick’s emerges: the regulatory arena is designed and built so as to engage, and exhaust, the oppressed in their futile attempt to protect life, to protect communities.
Our grow-or-die human culture is toxic within our finite orb. Rick will forever work as a change agent in his attempt to shift our insane, global economy from a growth imperative to a resilient, steady-state imperative.
Rick’s ultimate passion is wilderness travel… sub-alpine and alpine travel above four thousand feet. High and outside. Spending time “… where the land obeys laws that people didn’t make”, as Scott Russell Sanders so fittingly said.
While the Cascades served as the original pull to land him here at WWU in 1975, he has climbed most every major volcano in the Pacific Northwest. His favorite is St. Helens, having summited its rim some 15 times! “I return to this place, first hand, time-and-time again, to feel our living and evolving earth. And then, to top this off, I adore the descent: a sitting glissade that often lasts thousands of vertical feet….. non-stop! It simply doesn’t get much better than that.”
Oftentimes a book’s chapter begins with an essential quotation or two in which the author sets the stage for that which he or she is focusing upon. Permit this chapter to end with three quotations so essential to Rick’s learning…
“Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.” – James Harvey Robinson
“That lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” – Khalil Gibran
“It is difficult to get people to understand something when their salary depends upon them not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
KapKa School Quote
I can't help but wonder what it would be like to live in a world where people actually lived by the ideals on a sign posted at KapKa
Because we care about each other and our school,
We share what we have,
We listen carefully,
We help each other learn,
We work hard,
We have fun together,
And we make sure everyone is included.
We understand that everyone makes mistakes,
That we stand up for ourselves and others,
And that when someone asks us to stop, we stop..
This is who we are and
This is what we do,
Even when no one is watching.