Green.org sat down with Creel O’Neil to learn about how he is working at the intersection of space technology, geopolitics, and industry.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
As a child I had a penchant for the outdoors and a pretty deep wild streak. This was coupled with a love of science and space. Reconciling all of that that was hard as I grew up. The world wanted me to be either an engineer or a financier, but I’m not particularly good at fitting molds and knew I needed something much more thrilling. So, in search of adventure, I ran off to the military after college, then to the foreign service, and finally into the private sector. Each time, not quite finding the right fit. I’ve been blessed to work in positions that allowed me to hone my knowledge of technologies and their application to policy & geopolitical needs. However, after all of this real life trial and error I realized that I needed to apply my experience and skills into trying to build something unique and something that helped address the problems we’re witnessing today.
I’ve always dreamed of sharing the spirit of adventure with new people. The thrill of testing yourself against the “real” world when all we typically understand in the West is our manufactured and homogenized world. More importantly, my partners and I wanted to do this in a way that preserved the ruggedness of the landscape, offered a unique experience, and did so entirely off-grid. That birthed our plan for the Endeavor Lodge & Club – an off-grid adventure experience where we plan to use renewable energy sources, electric adventure vehicles, and minimalist high end facilities to provide unique adventure experiences nestled in the Appalachian landscape. We acquired land surrounded on 3.5 sides by the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, providing us 280 acres of private land with direct trail access into the 900,000 acres of pristine national forest. We’ve installed our road access and are now in the process of looking for investor-partners to help us fulfill the vision.
What is a fun fact about you?
One of my degrees was in music, where I played the trumpet and piano. I was in a band with a quintessentially college name: SOFAPUNCH. Terrible monickers aside, we ended up having an album on iTunes for a while.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
First and foremost, the existential threat it poses to our longevity. That is clearly a problem and I would like for there to be a sustainable future for my children and their progeny. From a philosophical perspective, and to tie in my other work in the space industry, understanding the factors and drivers that allow for us to survive here on Earth is what will allow humanity to become a multi-planetary species. It’s not enough for us to create controlled habitats on unlivable planets. That’s a bandaid. What makes this planet suitable for life has to come with us as we expand. That is to say, we have to be able to understand and replicate stable biospheres and turn dead planets into bastions of life.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
I foresee renewable power systems becoming significantly more efficient (possibly even nuclear fusion) as well as quick charging electric vehicles. These will make projects like ours significantly easier to maintain and manage. Right now, it’s fairly simple to generate and store enough electricity to power our facilities off-grid. But, adding electric vehicles alters that equation drastically. They require a lot of electricity, in a short amount of time, and on demand – something solar power systems and battery storage aren’t particularly good at. We’ve been exploring the potential for using electrolysis and hydrogen fuel cells to produce the needed “on demand” energy. GM’s recent partnership with Renewable Innovations in that realm seems to indicate thats where things may be going for remote quick charge options.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
There are lots of little things that people can do, like taking the time to know what your local recycling facilities will and won’t process. Or, walking and biking more than driving (especially if you live in an urban area). However, a lot of it boils down to getting out of the comfort bubble. The pressure we put on the environment is, in great part, to sustain our own individual laziness. There’s an entire whiskey fueled discussion to be had here, but one thing I learned from my multiple deployments in the Army was just how much of a comfort bubble the United States lives in. I encourage everyone to get out of that bubble. Get out of the comfort of laziness and embrace difficult things in difficult locations. It forces you to see things in a very different way. You’ll have a much better appreciation for your impact on the world and what you can do about it.