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Friday, December 19, 2014         

INCIDENTAL LIVES


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Self-admitted geek powered by a passion for conservation

By Michael Tsai

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After carefully elaborating on his point that our modern dependence on fossil fuels is essentially a drain on a limited bank of ancient sunlight, and having already deftly woven an improbably logical cloth from theories posited by both mythologist Joseph Campbell and Jedi master Yoda, AND having earlier confessed to making homemade chain-mail jackets in high school, 36-year-old Manoa resident Jon Abbott suddenly feels compelled to let us in on the worst-kept secret of the young evening.

“Yeah,” he says, shrugging, “I’m a geek.”

To be sure, Abbott has unimpeachable geek cred. He grew up in a home filled with his father’s favorite sci-fi books. He developed an early fascination with “Star Wars,” which blended nicely with his existing love of Irish and Greek mythology and later with his studies of Campbell’s heroic archetypes, in particular Campbell’s seminal book of comparative mythology “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” He made lightsabers for his role-playing buddies.

And, true enough, the guy dubbed “Hobbit” by his adolescent buddies has only grown into the nickname as his compact frame has filled in with round muscle and his hairline has taken a few distinguished steps backward, affording his quick, ironic smile full canvas across his face.

But “geek” doesn’t begin to tell the story.

What Abbott is, in fact, is an average guy with above-average awareness of himself and the world around him.

Abbott grew up in Londonderry, N.H., and watched with disappointment the ways in which rapid urbanization changed not just the environment, but how people related to their surroundings.

And while Abbott was pondering the utopian/dystopian future-scapes of science fiction and reflecting on the Jungian archetypes that permeate so much heroic narrative, he was making the most of the pres­ent by earning a degree in biochemistry from the University of New Hampshire and moving to Hawaii for his graduate work in ethnobotany.

For the last decade or so, Abbott has worked in

renewable energy as co-founder of the Fuel Farm biodiesel cooperative, co-founder of the educational Green House Center for Sustainability and technical director for the renewable energy company 21st Century Solutions.

“People talk all the time about sustainability, but I think a better word is conservation,” Abbott says. “I’m a wise-use advocate. Whatever solutions we eventually adopt, I feel they need to be socially, financially and environmentally responsible.”

Abbott walks his talk. He grows much of the vegetables and herbs he enjoys eating. He uses biodiesel. He’s even converted two hybrid vehicles into solar-powered cars, just for the heck of it.

For Abbott such a lifestyle — one cognizant of the past, mindful of the future and firmly set in the pres­ent — keeps with Campbell’s famous exhortation to “follow your bliss.”

“The meaning of that is more complex than ‘do whatever feels good,’” says Abbott. “It’s about recognizing what truly makes you happy and committing to it. It’s not always easy.”

———

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@staradvertiser.com.






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