Blog: John Batdorf

New Michigan motto: "If you seek a green peninsula, look about you." On April 22nd over 1 billion people worldwide will celebrate our green planet. John Batdorf, co-founder and manager of the MI Earth Day Fest, sounds the wake-up call. We're on the verge of "peak oil" he says, and the next 20 years are crucial to kicking our oil-aholism.

Post 1: Johnny Come Lately - Part 1

As co-founder and event manager of the MI Earth Day Fest, I am proud to say that the downtown Rochester event has become one of the largest Earth Day events in the country. This year, we are planning for more than 200 exhibits (209 at last count), 100,000 attendees, and a full schedule of activities over the weekend of April 23rd - 25th. People sometimes ask me how I got started in the Earth Day mega-event business and I have to admit that my interest in the day has been relatively recent…

I was reminded by a classmate that we wore green arm bands to celebrate the first Earth Day in Mrs. Schlegel's fifth grade class. I don't recall that but do recall her expressing heartfelt concerns about the state of the environment and other teachers gathering us kids to sing a protest song at a school assembly:

"Pollution, pollution,
They got smog and sewage and mud.
Turn on your faucet and get hot and cold running crud."

Looking back, it's surprising and cool that our teachers had us singing protest songs in school on that first Earth Day. It was a part of a 20 million-person protest that kicked off the modern environmental movement. The results of that movement were things like the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.  This April 22nd, over one billion people in 150 countries will celebrate the 40th Earth Day.

For me, fifth grade just about completed my Earth Day resume, until a few years ago. Although the company I started, CIVITEC Healthcare Computers, was not intentionally about ecology or the green economy, these themes were certainly developing somewhere in my consciousness.  Our company logo looked suspiciously like a recycle symbol; the name was coined from the Latin word "civitas" for community; and my proudest achievement was an employee profit-sharing and self-evaluation program that turned the struggling company into a viable enterprise and ended up increasing payroll and reducing my "Germanic" tendencies.

During a men's group meeting in 2004, a friend preempted our usual sharing about personal problems, and read an article entitled "The Long Emergency", about the impending collapse of civilization caused by a phenomenon called "peak oil".  I had just seen The End of Suburbia, a documentary about peak oil, and had come to the meeting intending to invite the group to a showing the following day. Do you ever get the feeling the universe is trying to tell you something? I did, and the message changed my life.

To be continued…