Bringing Self-Reliance and Sustainability Into Our World: Matthew Stein
Name: Matthew Stein
Occupation: Author, engineer, designer and green builder
Location: Truckee, California, in the High Sierra’s near Lake Tahoe. Truckee is where the Donner Party had their infamous barbecue about 150 years ago.
Background: Always enjoying work with his hands, and being outside in the wilderness, Mat found it stifling to go to work as a design engineer in Silicon Valley, pushing pencils day after day. So, he took a break from engineering for a few years to be a carpenter, climb rocks, and throw pots instead. A 30-year interest in alternative healing got its start while Mat was still a freshman at MIT, after he witnessed the miraculous remote healing of a crippled friend (big shake up to his scientific “Billiard Ball Theory of the Universe” way of thinking). Over the years, this interest expanded to the use of herbs, homeopathy, and other alternatives to heal medical conditions that weren’t responding to western style medicine. Meanwhile, the engineer, carpenter, and backwoodsman sides of Mat found peace, harmony, and synergy through renewable energy, green building, and self-reliance. Mat has built hurricane and earthquake resistant, energy efficient, environmentally friendly homes. He has also designed, among other things, consumer water filtration devices, solar PV roofing panels, medical bacteriological filters, emergency chemical drench systems, computer disk drives, and portable fiberglass buildings.
Today, Mat owns and operates Stein Design and Construction, providing product design services, engineering analysis, and green building consulting.
Personal History: Mat was born and raised in Burlington, Vermont. His parents started him walking on skis at age 3, hiking at age 5, backpacking at age 7, and climbing at age 12. The Green Mountains of Vermont, White mountains of New Hampshire, and the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York were his four-season childhood playgrounds. After graduating from MIT in 1978, the lure of the “real mountains” of the west drew Mat across the country to California. In the mid-80s, after lots of stress and lost hair, he bailed from designing disk drives in Silicon Valley to a 10-acre homestead in the foothills of the Sierras. Eventually he and his wife Josie wandered farther up the hill to Truckee, where they have their current home in the High Sierra Mountains of California. They took a three-year break from the deep Sierra snows to build energy-efficient and environmentally friendly homes in the tropical paradise of Maui.
Current Projects and Other Fun Facts: Mat appears to have finally licked the last mold related issue with his home in Tahoe (details coming soon). Working on two new books, one of which is about changing our course from collapse to sustainability. It was a true epiphany that started Mat firmly on the path of self-reliance, emergency prep, and sustainability. Around Thanksgiving of 1997, during his morning session of prayer and meditation, in answer to a simple request for “guidance and inspiration,” Mat received a fully developed “story board” type of pictorial outline that popped into his head instantaneously. It was the outline for a handbook to help people be more self-reliant, live more sustainably, and prepare to weather the coming storms as we pass through this age of uncertainty and change.
Eventually, that vision became the book When Technology Fails. Mat still enjoys playing around in the vertical world of rock walls, though since suffering (and recovering from) a serious injury in a 40-foot ground fall (gravity sucks!) he no longer “pushes the envelope” quite like he used to. Wintertime finds Mat volunteering as a guide and cross country ski instructor for the blind with the Sierra Regional Ski for Light program.
Photo by Josie Stein