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What is Crucial?

Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute

“It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Every few months a small group of us former pupils drag our old mentor out of retirement for a “Sustainable Futures” reunion seminar. Two weeks ago, while our beloved Dr. Edward “Ed” Passerini was in town, he also graciously agreed to speak to my graduate class on Information Management. Wow. I don’t know about the rest of the class, but I was blown away.

Ed has a way of cutting to the chase, and that evening was no exception. Over the course of two hours Ed took us on a magical mystery tour of science from the Big Bang through the evolution of life to the current and probable future state of the planet as it currently stands with seven-plus billion planet-altering humans. But the question he blew me away with was, “What is crucial?” Not what is important, or even critical. But what is truly crucial?

I hate to reduce a complex, rich, and amazing talk to a simple tagline, but I would be remiss if I did not give you Ed’s answer to his own question. What is crucial is life, in the form of the information stored in the DNA of all living things. We must preserve life (DNA), for the Earth currently is the sole known source of this amazing substance in the entire vastness of our universe.

This November, as you vote for the future leader of the most powerful country on the planet, I hope you will ask yourself this question. What is truly crucial? I don’t think it’s the economy, or foreign policy, or any of the lightning-rod social issues currently being debated. All of these are important, or even critical. But what is crucial is the future of life on this planet. Individuals live and die. Nations arise and collapse. But life as we know it exists nowhere else.

“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”  ~Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes


Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at