GENI's Early History
By Peter Meisen
GENI -- Early Inspiration: I remember very clearly the first time that I heard Bucky speak. It was in 1971, and I was invited by my Dad to hear Bucky deliver one of his infamous 4-hour “Tours of the Universe” in Oceanside, California. I was enthralled, dumbfounded, but couldn’t actually tell you what he had said. As a high school senior at the time, I knew what Bucky was saying was important but little did I know how this experience would change my life.
The next time I met Bucky wouldn’t be for more than 10 years when I was invited to the Hunger Project Board meeting where Bucky was a guest speaker. Older now, I was able to better understand his global vision and extended answers. It was at this meeting that someone asked him, “Bucky, what should we do?” and in typical fashion, he encouraged us to look for what was wanted and needed in the world... and suggested we read his new book, Critical Path.
It wasn’t until three years later while on vacation, when I was looking for the next project in my life, that I finally got around to reading the book. On page 206, Bucky states that the “global energy grid is the World Game’s highest priority objective.” I realized that this strategy was most wanted and needed, and I decided to take a stand.
Initial Stages: Needless to say, the scope of the project scared me to the bone. With my engineering background, I had a core understanding of the importance of electrical energy to sustain modern society. In Critical Path, Bucky explained how the linking of abundant renewable energy resources between nations and continents would reduce pollution and population growth while increasing the quality of life for all. I began to re-educate myself, scouring libraries (there was no internet), and digging into the Buckminster Fuller Institute archives in Los Angeles. I had “played” Bucky’s World Game™ beforehand and used its mission statement as my creed:
My first presentation was to friends around the kitchen table with a Dymaxion Map and pen drawing of the grid concept. There was no budget, just stationary, business cards and a small mailing list. The original 3-year business plan was to educate leaders and utilities about this solution, then generate agreements between nations, with the ultimate end goal of actually building it - how naïve I was! Energy systems and electric grids are the most complex machines ever created, and naturally, tend to change very slowly.
Official Formation: GENI was founded as a non-profit in 1991. Its first office was a one room, donated space in San Diego, where we worked on an IBM 286 laptop. That same year in Manitoba, Canada we organized an International Workshop on “The Limits of Long-Distance High-Voltage Power Transmission and the corresponding Economic, Environmental and Social Political Implications.” Thirty-six experts from around the world attended and gave their credential to the economic and social benefits of interconnecting grids between regions and nations. We created a video, "A Win-Win Solution", which led to endorsements and allowed us to develop our first website in 1995.
I recall the first conversations with executives and engineers who would listen politely, nod and respond with “good luck.” They knew the challenges and hurdles much better than I and at that time, the Berlin Wall meant that East and West would never connect.
Moving Forward: Buckminster Fuller
was a visionary engineer ahead of his time. Today,
when we speak about “linking
renewables,” the prevailing response is “of
course, we need to do that.” The benefits
to jobs, domestic energy and climate change are
clear. The problem is that we are moving at a half
step when we need to be moving double time. Bucky
gave us a road map in Critical Path and Operating
Manual for Spaceship Earth, now it’s our
job to get it built.
[See A Brief History of GENI]