Two Kinds of Activists

Dec. 1, 2007
The flight into Portland, Oregon was bumpy and delayed, but I was excited to get there. I wasn’t in the usual business mode — Hugs from my Grandkids would soon greet me at the airport and I was daydreaming of Opa’s weekend with Galla and Finn, a one and two year old that make me feel young again.

The flight into Portland, Oregon was bumpy and delayed, but I was excited to get there. I wasn’t in the usual business mode — Hugs from my Grandkids would soon greet me at the airport and I was daydreaming of Opa’s weekend with Galla and Finn, a one and two year old that make me feel young again.

I smiled at the sharp young lady sitting next to me and she suddenly blurted out “I’m an activist!” Her declaration caught me off guard, but I scraped together a response. “We’ll that’s wonderful, what kind of activist are you?” She went on to describe that our excessive consumption of energy was killing the earth and that she had decided to fight this evil threat.

Exercising a grain of manners, I asked her to describe to me how she could save us from this terrible fate. She launched into an amazing canned speech about the government’s failure to legislate and limit a consumer’s ability to purchase power. Then she told me that if everyone on the planet would take action and do just one thing from a new book some movie star wrote, that we could begin to reverse global warming in less than 50 years.

“What’s your role in this great movement?” I inquired. She was traveling to Portland from San Francisco to participate in a protest that had something to do with saving an endangered species threatened by the wicked lumberjacks of the Northwest. My mind wandered as I irreverently imagined what a Spotted Owl sandwich would taste like. Further inquiries revealed she was funded by a non-profit environmental group.

Although I admired the passion and commitment this young lady possessed, I couldn’t help compare her shallow ideas to the Gigawatts of energy savings that you guys and gals actually deliver to your customers every year. Needless to say, you are the heroes in the real battle to save energy because you actually do something about it.

This young lady offered nothing more than misdirected chatter and hollow ideas driven by a distain for SUV drivers. She had no interest in the lack-luster air conditioning and heating industry or the “little difference” we make. She wanted to be heard, and wasn’t interest about what we accomplish to solve the issues she was all worked up about. I thought that was interesting.

The Farmer and the Activist
A dozen years ago I had an appointment to walk through a recently completed office building and review the controls and operation of the new mechanical systems our company had installed. The building owner was a wonderful man that farmed thousand of acres.

I sat in the lobby next to an angry young man that claimed he was there to straighten out the environmental mess this farmer was causing. He was visibly upset when I was invited into the farmer’s office before him. I asked the farmer about his young visitor. The farmer asked if I wanted to have some fun. “Oh yes!” was my reply. The angry boy was invited into our meeting.

For the next 15 minutes the kid ranted and accused the farmer of poisoning the earth and raping the land while earning obscene profits and stealing from government programs. Once again, the speech was canned and accusing. However, the farmer calmly and patiently waited until the boy had delivered his message.

“Who’s paying you?”’ spoken in a gentle tone, was the farmer’s first response. “I’m a volunteer,” insisted the boy. “Who’s paying for your college education?” the farmer asked. Within a few minutes the kid confessed he received a scholarship that required him to make four of these meetings with large farmers every month to deliver an environmental organization’s message. The young man was increasingly impressed with the farmer’s gracious manner and kind tone.

The farmer concluded the meeting before dismissing the activist. “I am the ultimate environmentalist. My station in this life requires me to figure out how many people I can feed from an acre of dirt. I am required to overcome drought, pestilence, plant disease, and the elements so millions like you can eat and live.” A few moments of reverence followed. The argument was over, the farmer prevailed.

The activist and I learned a new perspective on being an environmentalist that day.

So Are You an Environmentalist?
Sure you are. But you are a real one. Day by day, job by job, one customer at a time you save energy. It’s not real fancy, we don’t hold protests, or shout it at others, we’re not angry about it, nor do we accuse others for what we think they aught to be doing with their energy. But in the true sense of the word we are environmentalists.

We do the real work, we conserve energy. We are stewards of energy. Our motives are generally to save the green in our customer’s wallets so they can share it with their families instead of the utility company. But we’re green all right.

The point of this article is that we’re different that the activist and those who rant and accuse about environment issues because we actually do something about it in a very big way.

Spend some time coming to grips with your feelings and position on the environment. Define your quiet by substantial role in this battle from your perspective, not based on the angry wild ideas of the media and Hollywood. Take great comfort in your contributions to our good earth and the benefits you bring to those you serve.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry aspresident of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. If you're interested in defining our industry’s role in legitimate environmentalism, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at for free information, technical articles and downloads.