Turtuga Blanku interviews Alex Hutchinson

I am promoting the use of renewable energy through this website and my music. But there are a lot of other people out there also doing something in their own special way to contribute to solving environmental problems. I ask each interviewee only five questions.

Following photographer Gary Braasch is the long distance running, jazz saxophone playing physicist-turned-journalist Alex Hutchinson.
Based in Toronto, Canada and Sydney, Australia, he is a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics, covering energy and the environment, and a senior editor at Canadian Running magazine.
Apart from that he writes a column in the Globe and Mail, and has contributed to The Walrus, Runner’s World, Discover, Canadian Geographic, Toronto Life, etc.

1) Save the earth…why?

The first thing that pops to mind is sort of like Louis Armstrong's apocryphal definition of jazz: "If you gotta ask, you'll never know." But that's not true -- or at least, I hope it isn't. There are plenty of people whose knee-jerk response might be to dismiss environmentalism, but who can be convinced otherwise.

For me, it's fundamentally a question of fairness. I don't want to live in a way that deprives others (present or future) of things that I take for granted, like clean air and water; and I want others to extend the same courtesy to me. For that to be true (and, I regret to say, I fall far short of that ideal right now), we need a societal shift towards sustainability.

2) What, in your opinion would be the most realistic way to solve the climate problems we are facing?

I don't think there's a single answer. Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, on its own, isn't going to cut it. That doesn't mean that it's not worth doing, though. There are a whole bunch of things we need to pursue, ranging from the very personal (changing lightbulbs, shortening showers) to the societal (rethinking urban planning, investing in renewable energy research).

Looking back in a few decades, some of them will turn out to have been pointless -- but we can't know which ones in advance. We can't wait around for the perfect answer that will solve all our problems: we have to move forward with the tools we have now.


3) Do you think that anyone can be -or has the personality to be- "green"?

Sure. Most of our attitudes are shaped by our society and our family and friends, so change is never a simple question of making a powerful argument and convincing everyone all at once. I'm sure there were plenty of skeptics who thought that agriculture or indoor plumbing were massive conspiracies, and dragged their heels. But those attitudes eventually faded away. Of course, we're under some time pressure with the environment right now, which makes things more complicated. But I don't think some people are simply incapable of going green.

4) How do you think music can contribute to protecting the environment?

Musicians have been at the vanguard of social change for generations. Given my answer to the previous question, I believe that persuading people to rethink their worldviews is as important a challenge as inventing the next iteration of more efficient solar panel. That's where music can play a role.

5) And finally: who would you recommend to also ask the questions you just answered?

Graham Hill, the founder of Treehugger, would be an interesting one. Maybe Malcolm Gladwell, who has thought a lot about how people influence each other.

Thanks, Alex!

Next up is Ecocity Builders' President Richard Register.

In Turtuga Blanku's 5Q-interview series so far:

1) Award-winning eco-expert Simran Sethi.
2) Environmental photojournalist Gary Braasch.
3) Saxophone playing physicist turned journalist Alex Hutchinson.
4) Ecocity Builders' President Richard Register.
5) M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell.
6) Filmmaker and sound designer Velcrow Ripper.
7) Environmentalist and agricultural activist Vandana Shiva.
8) 'The World Without Us' author Alan Weisman.


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