Charlie Komanoff

Ooh, wish I’d known about the reunion last year, it would have been great to see you-all.

My month with NWES in ’78 was a kind of fulcrum in my life — a high point in my western traveling and music-making but also a valedictory of sorts to those explorations. The Three Mile Island disaster the following spring propelled me into a more serious policy-analytical place where I’ve more or less stayed ever since, working away on nuke power economics, urban transportation including congestion pricing, and carbon taxes. (Much of this is archived on my website at http://www.komanoff.net.)

Not entirely, though. In the mid-eighties, probably inspired by possibilities I glimpsed with NWES, I dived headlong into bicycling advocacy here in NYC. Improbably, I became an effective spearhead of the movement for cycling and against cars. Now it’s called “livable streets” and enjoys a good deal of popular support, but back then it was an uphill struggle subsisting on grit, commitment, improvisation and camaraderie — qualities I inhaled that summer.

Through bike advocacy, I met my wife, Judy. Now, a few decades later, our son Daniel is just out of college and leaving the nest for Brooklyn; Alex is in college in Minnesota. Yep, I’m an old(er) dad and doing my best to keep up. Except for hiking trips in Utah and Arizona when the boys were younger, I’ve been doing my traveling close to home. At some deep level, I guess, I’ve internalized that nature is close-by and all around and have relinquished the urge to fly to spectacular faraway places. And I get around almost exclusively by bike. I love everything about bicycling — its local and vernacular quality, its social and thermodynamic efficiency, the ability to fly without leaving the ground.

This too: I do a lot of writing. Two pieces that might interest other alums are a feature article in Orion from 2006, about giant wind turbines (I’m for them!); and The Bicycle Uprising, my brief history of NYC bike activism, from 2012. Oh, and I referenced NWES, though not by name, in a 2003 open letter to environmentalists urging them to get behind wind power.

The amazing progress — finally! — of wind and solar power along with energy efficiency, maybe just in time to avert the worst of climate ruin, is a lifelong dream come true. You guys were pioneers: visionaries, artists, artisans, educators, treehuggers with tools and guitars. It was a privilege to join up with you.

Komanoff _ 19 May 2012 _ empty highway _ cropped

 

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