His Crusade: A Worldwide Electric Grid
October 23, 1998
By Logan Jenkins, San Diego Union Tribune
Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune
Back in 1971, Lefty Meisen, a dean at MiraCosta, took his teen-age son Peter to hear a two-=hour Buckminster Fuller lecture at the Oceanside community college.
"I was mesmerized," Peter Meisen, 45, recalled the other day. "I fell asleep, was inspired, couldn't tell you what he said, but I knew it was real important."
Years later, that dizzying exposure to one of the century's most fertile scientific minds developed into a clear image of how to save the world.
In 1985, Meisen was reading Fuller's "Critical Path" in Idyll-wild.
"Birthrates decrease at exactly the same rate that per capita consumption of inanimate electrical energy increases," Fuller wrote. "The world's population will stop increasing when and if the integrated world electrical grid is realized."
Meisen's life's work snapped into focus. He would become an apostle for a worldwide web of wires that, if allowed to crisscross political borders, would reduce pollution, hunger, population growth and disease while increasing literacy and enhancing trade.
"I was stunned, scared, overwhelmed," Meisen said.
Meisen already was hard at work fighting hunger. In 1983, he had co-founded World SHARE, a private food-distribution program.
Gradually saying goodbye to all that, Meisen formally fired up GENI (Global Energy Network Institute) in 1991. He's been shaking the Earth's movers ever since, using the nonprofit research company to persuade anyone who will listen to support Fuller's world-beating notion
Walter Cronkite came on board recently with a high-voltage endorsement. In a gushing letter, the former CBS anchorman with a well-known bent for science stated that the GENI initiative "offers the most thoughtful strategy toward peace and sustainable development that I have seen."
How does an Oceanside kid a junior golfer who played with Craig Stadler, later a surfer with a van turn into a global idea many lobbying the likes of Cronkite and Boutros Boutros-Ghali?
After earning an engineering degree from UC San Diego, Meisen spurned beckoning defense jobs. For a decade he kicked around in a variety of odd sales positions. "Searching for himself" is the phrase parents hopefully employ.
In this case, the search was rewarded.
"What I'm doing now is education, like my father, but on a global scale," Meisen said in Ocean Beach, where he lives. "Mom (Gloria Meisen) was the ultimate volunteer, working with people, raising money for Tri-City Hospital. What I do is merge volunteering and save-the-world education."
The GENI goal is vast amounts of electricity from renewable, clean sources like hydro or wind humming through power grids, empowering the 2 billion people in the Third World who have never turned on a light bulb.
Janathan Miller, a San Marcos engineer, serves on the GENI board. She calls the concept top drawer but a "tough sell" that needs to graduate from the grass roots and be adopted by a major university or large company.
Until that light switch goes on, Meisen will teach an elite graduate class you might call Altruistic Engineering 101: Prescription for a Fuller Life
More power to this guy and his GENI, too.