Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Interview by: Anita Peebles
Russell Benjamin is a woodworker and a contractor. He is interested in green and energy efficient construction and community development. In addition to living in Oberlin, he also lives in the Pemaquid Peninsula in Maine. He is a strong proponent of education and enjoys travelling.
Q: What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin?
A: Dynamic, progressive, vibrant, alivethe downtown is still very much alive, mostly because of the students needing to have close by services.
Q: Some people use the word sustainability to mean actions that enhance/maintain the economic, environmental and social welfare of the Oberlin community. What does sustainability mean to you and mean in your own life?
A: Sustainability, to me, means using the resources we have as well as we can and using them to the utmost of their longevity. I am a proponent of, for example, fiber cement siding because it uses materials that include materials that were waste and it uses materials that will last for a long time. Wood siding is not so sustainableit doesnt last as long, although certain species like the White Cedar, which they use in New England, last a long time with proper care.
Sustainability, to me, means using the resources we have as well as we can and using them to the utmost of their longevity.
Q: Has anyone or anything in particular inspired you to be interested in sustainability?
A: Well, the practicality of sustainability is one reason. I consider myself to be a very practical person. When youre looking at projects, you know, sustainable to me is using products that last longer, and when theyre done, its important to think about whether they will return to the earth or sit in a landfill. When I think about what products and processes I want to use, I think about the environment. I care about the environment, I care about air quality, and so its just kind of a personal mode of operation that brings me to thinking a certain way. Those things are practical and they make sense to me.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell your fellow community members regarding their treatment of the environment?
A: Sustainability takes time, a longer vision, and a longer time frame. Most people are stuck in the immediate meeting of their needsputting siding back on their house, heating their houseand they think about what will be the cheapest at that moment. So, to take the long view on these issues, I think they might arrive at different decisions when theyre making these decisions. Theyll think about their children, the next five generations, and theyll take the long view. We are all kind of caught up in our immediate needs, and the long view needs to always be looked at.
Q: When you envision what Oberlin will be like in 25 or 50 years, what would you want to see in that vision?
A: One thing I would like to see is sustainable structures that are affordable in place of older and less environmentally-friendly structures. Id also like to see more solar panels and a true embracing of sustainability, which is taking that long view. Lets start now, and in fifty years, well have a utopia.
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