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An Eco-Spiritual Memoir

by Jerry Yudelson

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-948018-72-2
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

An environmental activist finds inspiration in Eastern mysticism in this memoir from Yudelson (Reinventing Green Building, 2016, etc.).

Yudelson’s journey into environmentalism was one more of necessity than ideology. When the author was growing up in suburban Los Angeles, the smog and polluted beaches represented a direct infringement on his quality of life. His goal was to become an engineer, but the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s—plus the degradation he noticed in the landscape around him—drove him into the nascent environmentalist movement. He dropped out of graduate school at the California Institute of Technology two months after planning the Caltech event for the first Earth Day in 1970 and threw himself into a career as an environmental engineer. The final component in his evolution as an eco-activist was perhaps an unexpected one: a spiritual dimension. He found it in the teachings of Baba Muktananda, an Indian guru whose practice involved meditation and yoga. After meeting Baba in 1974 during a retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Yudelson began a decadeslong intercontinental journey blending spiritual philosophy with environmental design practices, pioneering a new field of green building and earning the nickname “the Godfather of Green.” Yudelson’s prose is simple yet elegant, infused with the sincerity of a true believer. Here he describes the sensation he felt when Baba Muktananda first touched him: “As Baba’s energy moves around inside my head, my mind becomes still, perhaps for the first time. I am both inside my body and, in my awareness, floating freely, somewhere outside. The energy invokes feelings: blissful, unexpected, intensely familiar.” The book is hardly a page-turner: Yudelson’s adventures are impressive without being inherently exciting—they are largely summarized, not dramatized, and the tensest moments usually involve a guru (whom skeptical readers will revere far less than the author does). Even so, Yudelson’s blend of environmentalism and spiritualism captures an overlapping sensibility that was perhaps more common among an earlier generation than it is today. His story is an illustrative one for those interested in the roots of the green movement in 1960s protest culture and the ways that it has evolved to become a powerful force in our own critical period of climate change. 

An intriguing, if not always riveting, memoir about a green engineer’s personal and professional evolution.