E-mail: daniel [at] mcquilleninteractive.com
- Seeing the Forest for the Trees
- Harnessing the Sun
- The U.S. Answers the Green Building Challenge
- The Art of Daylighting
- Environmental Building Events Sweep The Country
- 3 Case Studies for Improved IAQ
- Virtual Office Showcases Green Technology
About Daniel McQuillen
I work as an independent multimedia developer through my company McQuillen Interactive. In the meantime I'm involved various things: hiking with my wife Jamyang, learning about medicinal herbs and organic farming, programming, learning Spanish and Tibetan, reading about permaculture, and of course the beautiful game.
My core interest, however, is in the cross-section of sustainable design and information technology ... especially as it relates to green building. I was a founding editor of Environmental Design and Construction (the brainchild of John Sailer), which is still going strong today. These days, I'm focused on how technology can be used to spread ideas and knowledge about sustainable design.
I spend time wondering how we can use these advanced tools we've created to essentially save us from ourselves. We've painfully come to learn that:
- Oil is not endless
- Oceans have memories -- especially of what we put in and take out
- We physically and mentally become what we eat, drink and breathe
- Things people figured out a long time ago are still relevant
- We can do more to make the world more equitable, compassionate, safe and well fed.
So What Can We Do?
With the infinite above and deep rock below, what can one do? Nobody knows how to control the immense changes now in motion, like the long-term outcome of a rapidly melting polar ice cap within an infinitely complex biosphere.
We can and should try to shape our future. But some bad decisions are here to stay. Our most powerful ability, I think, is unlimited control over how we can adapt to these changes while trying to make better choices, and growing in the process. Lao Tsu said that Wu Wei (Not Doing) did not mean doing nothing.
I think it's time well spent to figure out strategies for uniting ancient knowledge and modern technology. Basically 1) We've built our tools for better or for worse, so let's figure out how to make it for the better and 2) The past was not perfect, but people did figure out how to do things in very clever and sustainable ways (Ayurveda, Tibet's science of mind and compassion, sustainable farming techniques, living in small groups, myth and community).
I don't understand the finer points of planetary ecology, but when biologists say that we're in the beginning stages of a 6th major extinction event, probably brought on by human activity, this gives things a certain immediacy.
A Small Part
Unfortunately things aren't going to slow down and we have time left for only adaption and creativity, or as Morgan Freeman says in that rumbling voice "get busy living or get busy dying."
I'd like to help transmit techniques and bring sustainable techniques to a wider audience. For this reason I'm focusing my company's main efforts on e-Learning and sustainable technologies. Our first project in this area is with The Deringer Group. We're helping them build an e-Learning module to train HVAC engineers on energy efficiency for large buildings. A more recent project is COMFEN, a simulation engine for architects and engineers that I'm writing as a contractor to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.
I'd also like to make old knowledge new. There's a lot of ancient and practical knowledge out there, knowledge that -- like many species -- continues to degrade and dissolve under the heavy steel wheels of progress. How can we preserve, recycle and re-learn this knowlege?
At a more basic level, I think there are a number of things we all could work on each day:
- Eat as much local, organic food as possible
- Drive less
- Learn some skills that are not oil dependent
- Help elect honest, compassionate people -- Democrat or Republican or Independent-- that will make choices that make sense for our survival as a species.
- Learn about the concepts of permaculture
When I was growing up, one person outside of my parents had a real influence on me...a man named Brian. Brian lives in Erie, Pennsylvania with his partner Patty (an accomplished healer and photographer). Brian is pretty special guy: he builds houses by himself based on skills he learned at the Shelter Institute and creates art from driftwood. His houses and art are really fantastic, but that's not what makes Brian special to me.
Brian helped me to understand the importance of thinking about life's choices creatively. "Why..." he asked one day in the "Ultimate Questions" high school philosophy class he taught, "do you have to live like you're 'supposed to'? Why do you have to do what's expected?"
To learn from others is important. To be aware of creative possibility is fundamental. Brian has had artwork in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. He's taught himself how to build houses as a livelihood, taught philosophy, made furniture, collaborated with artists, and raised a great family. And he keeps coming up with fantastically inventive projects that have a deep, profound feeling that I can only explain as mythical.
All this was possible because he nurtured his creativity and honed the part of the mind that is called to action when one must discover his or her own way. He said once that people might look at how he does things and see inefficiency or areas for streamlining or refinement. But he learned how to do it and now these things are real. There is no way to learn how to do this than to do.
So Brian's challenge is to wake up to really see the choices that we have. Not just the few pasted to billboards, reinforced in movies, sold in magazines, or ossified into terms like GDP. And then, with patience, to rely on the power of our own creativity. As things change in the coming years, we need to re-learn how to learn. Re-discover how to invent. Remember how to heal. And this time we must do it at a more human level, with respect for the sacred earth.
This is something to look forward to.