On April 14, 1992, I had one of my life’s greatest epiphanies. I was staying in a friend’s beachside Condo on Mustang Island with my youngest son and a couple of his friends. They were all about 15, and as I looked out the door I saw them running along the top of a dune, whooping and hollering, joyful and young.
Behind me I was hearing CSPAN for the first time, and the voices were of three scientists who, I realized, were saying things like “The most probable result will be a sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity,” and “the limits are real and close, and there is just exactly enough time, with no time to waste.”
Within a minute or so I realized I was hearing scientific explanations of an MIT computer model that showed “human use of many essential resources and generation of many kind of pollutants have already surpassed rates that are physically sustainable.”
The model showed exponential pollution growth as well as peaking and then sometime in the middle of this century total failure of four critical variables, as society goes through “overshoot and collapse.”
The original study was done in 197X, and the latest study showed we had traveled 20 years along the predicted path, headed for spectacular human failure.
I turned back to the dunes where the boys were rolling down the sand in total abandon, without a care in the world. And it occurred to me that they were doomed.
The next thing I knew it was dark and I was walking on the beach trying to figure out what to do to save their skins.
Within minutes of the end of the cable report, I had decided to close my commercial photography studio and devote my time to slowing this collapse and its effects on my family and our friends and soon enough realized I meant everybody.
Sometime that night I used a stick to scrawl the word “sense” in the sand (I can’t remember why) and by morning, when my wife arrived, I was set on creating a new organization and its name would be Sense.
My wife, Jody Blazek, is a CPA who is a national expert on tax-exempt organizations, or nonprofits. She was overwhelmed by my intensity, I think, but immediately joined me in analyzing what to do.
Our first inclination was that Sense would be a nonprofit because we both had experience in that. But it also seemed possible that some sort of educational business could be based on these problems.
For nearly ten years I had been working with computers, and in the recent years I had been doing extensive photo-manipulation on a series of Macintosh computers. As I stayed on top of that learning curve I began to see the emergence of something called “multimedia,” a means of producing visual documents that moved and could tell stories in narrative form with sound and pictures, as well as words.
The industry was just at the point that Apple Computer was evolving a video player called Quicktime, Microsoft was pushing PowerPoint, and elaborate multimedia tools were entering the marketplace.
But the most important development was that Apple Computer was beginning to use the CD-ROM format extensively, which enabled distribution of the sometimes huge files that multimedia presentations were becoming.
CDs were objects that could contain information like books and be sold to people. They could be products.
That year, in September, Apple began to ship computers with CD drives. Very early, Apple focused on getting that technology into schools as a way of delivering content to teachers and students at very reasonable costs. There was also a spreading research story that children learned faster with visual and audio material and the ability to search and roam in the content.
So Sense Interactive, a Texas corporation, was created that year to deliver educational content about the global environment to students, who would grow up to be the engineers of the world. Armed with information and wisdom from the CDs, they would correct everything and the problem would be solved.
This could be a pretty long story, but in the end, after publishing a few CDs, Sense was pummeled into submission by the likes of Microsoft and other big software producers who commandeered the shelves in the stores.
We lost a ton of money, and I desperately transformed Sense into a multimedia services company, the first in Houston. We produced some of the earliest websites and presentations for regional corporations and trade organizations.
But what I was doing was the opposite of struggling with the apocalyptic vision that had led me to learn about these communications tools. I was helping companies expand their economies in an unsustainable way. I began looking around for balance and a return to sustainable principles.