Before most Davis students were born, Gary Snyder began living his life without electricity.
The Education for Sustainable Living Program class hosted world famous poet, activist and former UCD professor Gary Snyder on Tuesday night. He came to discuss his philosophies on sustainable energy with the only student-run class on campus.
“We are trying to encompass our community and campus to work towards sustainability on a political, social and environmental level,” said Abbey Chroman, senior international relations major and organizer for the California Students for Sustainability Coalition chapter at Davis.
Snyder has been living off the grid – without using public utilities for things like electricity, water or fuel – since the 1970s. He told the crowd that living without the grid isn’t so easy.
“So far, grid electricity is a big part of it,” he said. “If you got it, use it.“
Snyder began the evening’s lecture by speaking about his off-the-grid lifestyle. He uses wood for heat and is responsible for his own road repair. He initially relied solely on kerosene lamps. It wasn’t until 25 years ago that he began using solar panels by gradually adding them as he could afford them.
“It requires checking batteries, turning on the generator when needed and maintenance,“ Snyder said. “That’s all. Lots of people just don’t want to do the maintenance part.“
Snyder touched on the Sierra Specific Industry – the largest private landowner in all of California – who does logging and sawmill production. They have issues with ecologists and environmentalist who oppose their practices, Snyder said.
“It comes down to an argument between our scientists and their scientists,” Snyder said. “This is just a little model of what takes place on the globe at a large scale with sustainability.“
He also spoke about Point Reyes National Park, located in the Bay Area, where battles between several ranch owners and environmentalists have become contentious. He advocated a compromise for a working landscape – a combination of extremes, uniting the preservationist side with the utilitarian side.
“It can only be resolved by certain cooperation, give and take, deals and compromises,” Snyder said. “But in areas where issues are negotiated, what happens if you have people nibbling at [the argument] from both extremes? It polarizes situations and society.“
Derek Downey, a former ESLP student who helped get Snyder to speak at Tuesday’s class said he thought it was important that Davis students are exposed to new methods of sustainable energy.
“[He] empowers students directly, makes them feel they are important enough to change the world…. People in the class can find something that they can get involved with through the class,” said Downey, a senior biological systems engineering major.
Snyder, who taught English at Davis until 2001 and is a well-known poet, read five poems to the class, all relating to sustainable energy and his experiences with the environment.
“I think he offers some inspirations to people who have heard his poetry,” said Sara Kosoff, a sophomore psychology major.
He also mentioned a good way to test out if alternative energy sources work is to observe what your peers and neighbors use. Snyder himself is waiting to see what the maintenance on his neighbors‘ hybrid cars is like to see whether or not he would like to purchase one.
Snyder ended with questions from the audience and some final words of wisdom about his experiences.
“I urge you all to try alternate energy, but be prepared to be frustrated,“ he said. “And to spend a lot of money on batteries.“
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.XXX