CARLSBAD — Fifty years ago, a global movement was born, and one Carlsbad resident played a big role.
Jerry Yudelson, known as the Godfather of Green, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with his new book, “The Godfather of Green: An Eco-Spiritual Memoir” on his life pushing for sustainability.
He is hosting a virtual reading on April 22, which is Earth Day.
As a young student at the California Institute of Technology, Yudelson, now 76, was pulled into the world of activism and the intersection of sustainability, politics and more. He and several of his classmates created Earth Day as a way to bring awareness to what was happening with the planet.
It led to a life filled with pursuing alternative options to fossil fuels and reimaging the country’s infrastructure and individual lifestyles on so many levels.
“The whole country was in turmoil and I was looking for something that I could be for, rather than against,” Yudelson said of the late 1960s. “I eventually was an environmental consultant in northern California and that was the start of things.”
His book, meanwhile, is a reflection on a life spent championing a cause he believed in. It touches on his spiritual journey, which was lifted by an Indian meditation master who transformed Yudelson’s life purpose.
Yudelson’s experiences at CalTech and growing up in the 1960s led him down to the intersection of internal peace and working to help others. In college, he was awakened to much more of the world and was drawn to environmentalism. His efforts have helped spearhead the global movement leading to new technologies generating power in cleaner ways than fossil fuels. For example, he said, 70% to 80% of all new electricity capacity added to the grid is created by wind and solar power.
“We’ve won that battle,” Yudelson said. “The only sensible investment today is renewable energy.”
Even 30 years ago, Yudelson was raising alarm bells about the climate crisis and what governments must do to protect the planet and its resources. His career landed him as the head of the state’s solar energy program under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
“I tried to build an alternative energy industry to get us off oil,” Yudelson said. “Forty years later, it’s happening. When you start doing it, you never think it’s going to take forever.”
Later, he became involved with the building green movement to design more sustainable buildings. One of the country’s foremost experts, Yudelson wrote a dozen books on the subject and slowly those processes have become incorporated with new building designs and standards.
His memoir, meanwhile, is a deep looking into his inner journey and his environmental work.
“The hard part is we got this carbon problem,” Yudelson said. “Since I was born, 80% of all the excess carbon has been added to the atmosphere. In the last 30, 50% of all excess carbon has been added. Thirty years is when we got the first real warning.”