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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Feedback Loop: Life on Earth

I found the interview comments of Dartmouth’s sustainability coordinator, Jim Merkel, [“Ecological Footprints”] in the spring issue of Dartmouth Engineer to be at odds with reality. Merkel would have us believe that there is a critical figure of merit, the ecological footprint, that is an overwhelmingly important indicator of man’s eco-friendliness. Americans have a footprint of 24 acres, compared to the rest of the world, which has an average footprint of about four acres. He believes we should feel guilty about this calculation, saying that he often has to make the difficult choice between hurting the earth (by flying) and hurting his family (by missing family graduations).

Has Merkel ever flown to one of those countries with a four-acre footprint? If so, he will find some of the worst ecological destruction on earth. Starving people will wipe out a species to eat. People who have no income will slash and burn rainforests or kill elephants for their tusks to earn the few dollars needed to obtain the rudiments of life. It is well known that the advanced countries with enough personal wealth to meet basic needs — with some left over for the environment — do the best with the environment. It’s not about footprint. If you want data, go to the EPA Web site. Every important environmental pollutant identified in the 1970s has been driven down dramatically by conscientious efforts funded by our industrial society.

Merkel sees humans as contaminators of the earth, incapable of solving ecological problems. I view humans as intelligent creatures who have proven themselves quite capable of solving the problems required to both enjoy their lives and still leave the earth in good shape. Merkel would categorize me as a large-footprint type because I drive my car solo to Silicon Valley every morning. However, when I get there, I spend my career working on reducing the power consumption of electronics and producing pollution-free power with advanced solar cells. Over the next decade, solar energy will produce much of the clean, pollution-free energy needed to break our dependence on fossil fuels and the countries that control them.

Parents should go to graduations — and enjoy them. Then, our graduates should go forth to solve our problems instead of retreating from them.

T.J. Rodgers ’70
President & CEO
Cypress Semiconductor Corp.
San Jose, Calif.

Editor’s note: T.J. Rodgers is a member of Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees.

Categories: Alumni News, Feedback Loop

Tags: alumni, energy, environment

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