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A Moment with Fred Stanback: RMI’s Work is his Legacy

Longtime RMI supporters and members of the National Solutions Council, Fred and Alice Stanback’s support for RMI has brought a considerable amount of the Institute’s work to life. RMI also benefits from the Stanback Internship Program, established in 1995 and offered to graduate students at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Stanback interns stay for the summer and contribute to major RMI initiatives. Duke University reports that 33 students this year were placed at 22 organizations thanks to the Stanbacks’ generous support.

The Stanbacks have contributed to the conservation of thousands of acres of wild lands in their home state of North Carolina and received the prestigious 2008 North Carolina Award for public service from Gov. Mike Easley for their conservation work.

Mr. Stanback has served on many boards, including the Nature Conservancy, Duke Marine Lab Advisory Board, Nicholas School, the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the N.C. Nature Conservancy, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, and both Catawba College’s board of trustees and the advisory board of its Center for the Environment.

The Stanbacks’ generosity was instrumental in “Redesigning Our Future,” a recent national environmental summit for high school students at Catawba’s Center for the Environment.

“These two people in their own quiet way have probably done more to educate young people in this nation about the importance of environmental stewardship than any other couple I have ever known,” says Dr. John Wear, executive director of the Catawba center. “Their impact on many young professionals will be felt far into the future, a future they will work to redesign.”

And their generous support of RMI is invaluable to the Institute’s success.

Fred Stanback took a few moments recently to answer a few questions about his motivation to press for change in environment and energy issues.

RMI: Your email signature includes a Thomas Edison quote about solar power: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Why did you choose that quote and what are your hopes for adoption of solar power?

FS: I think that solar power is the cleanest and the most logical source for most of our power needs, and should be encouraged instead of the present subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

RMI: You and your wife, Alice, have been strong RMI supporters, leaders in land conservation in your native North Carolina, of environmental education programs, of studying the health effects of environmental toxins and much more. What was your inspiration for your commitment and what do you hope the legacy of your efforts proves to be?

FS: If natural lands are not saved now, many of them will be lost forever. The economic benefits of nature are not widely appreciated, but they are vital. Thousand of chemicals have been introduced into our environment without testing for safety. All sorts of problems are coming to light, but the chemical industry resists appropriate regulation.

RMI: Fighting for a cleaner earth and brighter future might seem discouraging from the outside. There are powerful and vocal opponents, and sometimes progress isn’t broadly visible. How would you advise people to maintain their hope?

FS: It is hard to be optimistic with what is happening, but working for a cleaner world is the right thing to do, so we should keep trying.

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