Stories of the Original Staff of MOTHER EARTH NEWS Magazine

Ned Ryan Doyle remembers the days of the original staff of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. Doyle talks about working on MOTHER's Ethanol Fuel and Low-Cost Solar tours, being part of the Eco-Village and teaching hundreds of workshops each year.

| October/November 2003

Learn about the original staff of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine and the remarkable changes they helped to make in self-sufficient living issues of the day.

I discovered my first issue of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS in 1974. Immediately it struck me that something was very different about this magazine. It was filled with practical, realistic advice, information and projects all centered on sustainable living with respect for the Earth. I was hooked on "MOTHER" with that one issue. Like thousands of others at the time, I felt it was far more than a how-to publication; it was a magazine with a larger message that spoke to the people. The articles and editorials addressed very real concerns about the environment, about the absurdity of relying on fossil fuels, about false economics and a myriad other issues, nearly all of which, sadly, we still face today. At the same time, MOTHER EARTH NEWS offered proven alternatives for making our lives better, affordable ways to reduce the impact on our planet and rational options for living a joyful life.

The message and methods found in the pages of MOTHER touched tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people. The common sense, down-to-earth information was for real people living real lives. It inspired many regular, down-home folks to take more control over their lives, including myself. In 1979 I went to Hendersonville, North Carolina, for the very first of MOTHER'S Seminars. After only one week, I shamelessly begged for a job . . . and got one!

My years with MOTHER, from 1979 to 1985, rank among the best times of my life. I was a part of the original staff of MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff, traveling with the MOTHER 's Ethanol Fuel and Low-Cost Solar tours that crisscrossed the United States, stopping in dozens of cities and towns to offer how-to workshops on producing fuel ethanol and building extremely low-cost solar systems for hot water or space heating. I also worked as a coordinator and instructor at MOTHERS 622-acre Eco-Village Research Center and helped with the original MOTHER'S Chapters Organization that connected like-minded folks together in a cooperative spirit for work projects (and often lots of play). People often ask, "Wow, what was it like? It must have been exciting to work on those projects!" My answer never varies: "It wasn't so much the projects, it was the people who were exciting."

Don't get me wrong. Building a passive-solar, earth-sheltered, 1,000-square-foot home for a family of four (complete with greenhouse, permaculture gardens and microhydro generator) for less than $10 a square foot was exciting. Building cordwood barns, towers and domes was exciting. Being one of a dozen staffers who taught hundreds of workshops each year on topics ranging from beekeeping, composting toilets and wind power to bread-baking, photovoltaics and cordwood construction to thousands of summer visitors at the Eco-Village was exciting. Demonstrating a fully functional, 8-gallon-per-hour, 190-proof ethanol fuel still in cities around the United States usually under the watchful eyes of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was exciting. Visiting MOTHER's Chapters across the United States and Canada was exciting. But, the people who made all these projects happen, well, that's where the real excitement was and where my memories go.

Months on the road teaching thousands of folks to build their own ethanol stills and solar systems day after day, week after week, could have been tedious and exhausting, but the endless enthusiasm of our team and the great people we met along the way made it fun and invigorating.

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