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Intentional Ignorance

November 6, 2012

I wrote this essay to offer some essential information about our world and the future of our species, adding my voice to the many cries of alarm over the environmental crisis (lately reaching criticality). [More…]

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About Ross McCluney

Dr. McCluney holds B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Rhodes College in Memphis, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the University of Miami in Coral Gables, respectively. He attended Mirabeau B. Lamar high school in Houston, Texas, where he was an active Boy Scout, Sea Scout, and Explorer Scout. He attributes his love of nature to his camping and other outdoor experiences with scouting. His environmental awakening came while a grad student at the University of Miami, when he watched a PBS program by and about Ian McHarg, titled Design with Nature. His growing concerns for nature and what was being called “the environment” came together at that time, thanks to the McHarg program and, later, McHarg’s book of the same title.

Soon after this event, McCluney contacted the Southeastern Regional office of the National Audubon Society in Coconut Grove and spoke first with Joe Browder, who was running that office, later with his assistant Judith Wilson. Together, they “opened his eyes” to the long history of human adverse impact on the planet and the budding environmental movement that was then, in the late 60s, becoming more prominent and better supported by the general populace. When he asked Browder and Wilson what he could do to pitch in, one suggestion was to help start a student environmental club on the campus. He was introduced to Charles Lee and Phil Spitzer, young environmental activists at the time, and they helped him with a first organizational meeting of what became Environment!, the first student environmental organization on the UM campus. Later, Browder became the first Conservation Director of Friends of the Earth and Director of its Washington, D.C. office.

Wisconsin Governor and then U.S. Senator  Gaylord Nelson founded (and named Dennis Hayes as the coordinator of) the first Earth Day Teach-In that was held in 1970. When Hayes began organizing for that event, his staff sent out press packages and other ideas and materials to local organizers around the country. This made it easy for McCluney and three other students at UM plus faculty advisor Hans Frohlich from the School of Engineering to organize the university’s observance of that historic nationwide event. It is estimated that some 20 million demonstrators participated in the first Earth Day Teach-In on 22 April 1970. McCluney was publicity director for the UM observance.

He continued his graduate studies and optical physics research throughout his preparations for the Teach-In, mainly working to develop a multiple-pass holographic interferometer for electromagnetic plasma diagnostic use. (For his M.S. thesis research in Knoxville, McCluney had studied the diffraction of laser light by ultrasonic waves in water. He learned about holography at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics while a development engineer at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY and built Kodak’s first holographic interferometer while there.)

In the months following the first Earth Day, McCluney decided to suspend his physics studies and research temporarily and took a Research Assistantship at the University’s new Center for Urban and Environmental Studies headed by Carl McHenry. He worked under noted ecologist Arthur R. Marshall at the new center. One of his tasks was to edit a collection of environmental essays by some of the Earth Day presenters and by additional experts he had met in the Miami area. The quality of the writings seemed high enough for publication, as more than just a mimeographed collection to be distributed informally, his original intent. He approached the University of Miami Press to see if they might be interested in publishing the collection as a book. Ellen Edelen, the editor assigned to the project, mentioned that the proposed book was a little out of the ordinary for UM Press and that the powers that be needed some financial backing to protect the Press from a financial loss. Mr. McCluney appealed to the University’s Graduate Council, which had funds to help new faculty members with their research projects. McCluney offered to give all his royalties for the book back to the University and the Press offered to further reimburse the Council out of the sale proceeds. The Environmental Destruction of South Florida was published in 1971 and had its seventh printing in 1990. The University of Miami Press is no more, but copies of the book are still available on Amazon.com and through other used book sellers.

After a year at the Center for Urban and Environmental Studies, McCluney returned to his graduate research work, but switched to a more environmentally related subject, optical oceanography. His lab work was done at the University’s Rosenstiel School  of Marine and Atmospheric Science on Virginia Key (http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/).

Following graduation from UM, Dr. McCluney took an optical oceanographer position at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/home/index.html ) in Greenbelt, MD. After three years of work there he returned to Florida to join the staff of the newly established Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC,  http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/), initially located on Air Force property at Cape Canaveral but part of the University System of Florida. Several years later the center was more closely attached to and became a research institute of the University of Central Florida in Orlando (http://www.ucf.edu/). It remained in Cape Canaveral until moving to a new building on the university’s campus in Cocoa, Florida.

While at FSEC, McCluney enjoyed multiple years of funding for his research in fenestration energy and illumination performance and became active in the National Fenestration Rating Council (www.nfrc.org), which rates, certifies, and labels fenestrations for energy performance.  McCluney taught two semesters of a course on Philosophy, Religion, and the Environment at UCF’s Cocoa campus. Later he took a half-time sabbatical with UCF to write Humanity’s Environmental Future: Making Sense in a Troubled World and to edit Getting to the Source: Readings on Sustainable Values, a collection of essays on various aspects of the environmental crisis. He authored the introductory one of the latter book’s 27 chapters. Both books were published by SunPine Press of Cape Canaveral, FL in 2004 and are available from various sources on the web. He also wrote chapters 8 “Renewable Energy Limits” and 12 “Population, Energy, and Economic Growth: The Moral Dilemma” for The Final Energy Crisis, ed. by Andrew McKillop and Sheila Newman, published by Pluto Press of London and Ann Arbor, MI in 2005 (http://www.plutobooks.com/). McCluney also authored the textbook Introduction to Radiometry and Photometry, Artech House, Boston & London, 1994 and its 2nd edition 2014.

After 31 years of work at FSEC, McCluney retired in 2007 into an active solar optics consulting practice. He had co-founded the small start-up company Sunflower Corporation of Boulder, Colorado in 2006 and is co-inventor of its first product, the Sundolier®, a tracking solar lighting system for commercial buildings (www.sundolier.com). He served as a Director of the company and its VP for Research and Development, but is currently its Chief Technology Officer.  His final term as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Fenestration Rating Council ended in November 2013.In 2015, he was invited to give a presentation on trends in renewable energy to the southwest Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In preparation for that presentation, he studied the literature on work in that field over the previous decade.Over the next year, McCluney offered a variety of invited presentations on the environmental crisis, climate change, and climate advocacy, as described on the pageMcCluney 2016 Slide Shows & Links” under the “Pages” section in the left side menu bar on this web site.

In the Spring of 2016, McCluney joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) and attended orientation and training sessions by CCL on that organization’s program to push political action toward reversing global warming and to develop citizen lobbying skills. On 15 November 2016, he traveled to Washington, DC at his own expense to join 350 other CCL volunteers from around the country for an update meeting on CCL’s work. The next day they all attended sessions scheduled for them with the staffs of members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in their offices on Capitol Hill. That experience was summarized in the blog on this web site dated 17 November 2016, titled, “Citizen Lobbyists Flood Capitol Hill to Combat Climate Change“.