Encounters with a Man of Power
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
I have always believed based on my knowledge of history and on observation - that all social change originates from the passion and ingenuity of individuals. Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to meet many inspiring men and women who have literally changed society in very positive ways. People who have directly saved an endangered species or a threatened habitat. Or people who have launched organizations or programs that have been of immense benefit to the planet and to civilization.
Meeting and talking to such people is what sustains my faith that solutions can be found and we can indeed create a brighter and healthier and a more ecologically diverse future
In early June I boarded a train at Paddington Station in London and headed into the heartland of England to a small town called Stroud in Gloucestershire to meet an extraordinary man.
Dale Vince is not the kind of man you would expect to be a CEO of a major power company. In fact in the early Nineties, Dale Vince was living in an ex military vehicle like a gypsy. He was, he admits a hippie, who had spent a decade on the road searching for an alternative life style.
He was, however, a self sufficient vagabond and that led him to rig up a small windmill and a generator to power the lights and to provide a few conveniences. That little windmill lit up more than just the light bulb in his truck, it also illuminated an idea in his head and Dale Vince decided it was time to drop back into society with something positive to offer the world.
In 1995, Dale started the first wind powered energy company in Great Britain and named it Ecotricity. It was not easy, it had taken five years to build his first large windmill battling city planners, bigots, NIMBY's, power companies and bureaucrats. But finally in 1996, the blades began to turn on his first windmill and he began to generate power out of thin air.
In 1997, Dale decided to travel to Kyoto to attend the conference on global warming and climate change and he quickly realized that he was a pioneer in a new era of positive power production - no waste, no fossil fuel usage, no greenhouse gas emission, no pollutants, no complications - just the simple harnessing of one of the greatest power sources on the planet - heaven's breath - the wind.
Dale Vince is also a very unusual businessman because he understands that the purpose of money is to finance social change and with Ecotricity he decided to invest all his profits into development of wind energy technology.
A mere 12 years after he began, Ecotricity invested 25 million pounds in wind energy and it is a growing company that promises to change the power paradigm of an entire nation.
There are many types of Earth warriors and Dale Vince happens to be the type that I have often referred to as a Catalyst - a man of power who initiates significant change.
From homeless hippie to a CEO of a major power company in a decade and whereas he may be seen as a successful businessman by the establishment, he is in fact a revolutionary in the purest sense - a giver not a taker and a visionary with his eyes set upon a goal of changing the entire dynamics of power production for Great Britain.
I visited Dale's first windmill in a quiet field in Gloucestershire and watched as the slow turning blades turned soundlessly as they literally plucked energy from the sky and transmitted it directly into the nation's power grid. It also amazed me that I did not even think it was a particular windy day. A gentle and mild breeze was turning those immense metal blades as easily as a child blowing on a pinwheel.
So simple, yet apparently so daunting to so many. Not since the day that Nikolai Tesla pulled alternating current from the cascading waters of Niagara Falls has there been such a timely potential for moving in a new and more positive direction. Whereas Tesla left Edison and his direct current in the dust, Dale Vince is leading a voltage revolt into the 21st Century.
Later when I viewed the windmill from a few miles away, I could not help but notice what a beautiful sight it was. As the sun set, the slow turning triple blades looked alive and tirelessly continued to power hundreds of homes in the greenest and cleanest manner possible.
I came to Stroud to talk to Dale Vince not just about wind power but also to discuss another area that is of concern to Dale, an area that Sea Shepherd specializes - the protection and conservation of life in the sea.
Dale is a big picture environmentalist and well aware that everything on this planet is connected intimately with everything else and whereas winds are the currents of the atmospheric ocean, there is the ocean itself, the sustainer of all life on Earth and it is imperative that we protect aquatic eco-systems from the assault of humanity.
Dale's understanding of this interconnectiveness is evident in his research into the movement dynamics of whales through the water that can be a model for a revolutionary design for windmill blades. We discussed the relationship of escalating populations of human beings to diminishing populations of aquatic species and the need to change our dietary habits and to stop over exploiting marine resources.
Dale was also quick to point out that if fish disappear from the sea, it could have dire consequences for all of humanity - a lifeless ocean would soon lead to a lifeless planet. As a vegan he has adapted his life style to live ever more harmoniously with the planet, knowing full well that the consumption of fish and meat is one of the greatest contributors to green house gases on the planet and one of the causes for excessive wastage of water resources.
And because of this Dale has come onboard with Sea Shepherd as an activist and a supporter to work with us to find ways to defend and protect life in the sea.