Remembering Bill Holmberg – RTE Board Director (1995-2016)

Photo portrait of Bill Holmberg.

 

I have been reflecting this Thanksgiving on the opportunity to express my profound gratitude for the contribution of our dear friend Bill Holmberg as a board director of Remineralize the Earth. He supported this mission and this work long before we became a nonprofit organization, already beginning in the 1980s.

Bill Holmberg, feted by friends and policy makers with the theme An Officer, A Gentleman, and A Hero on his 80th birthday marked a lifetime of accomplishments on behalf of sustainable energy and the environment.

Bill passed away on September 8 at the venerable age of 88. As I prepared for our next board meeting I was nevertheless stunned and shocked to know that I would not hear his inspiring voice again on the telephone. I would not be visiting him in Washington, DC for any meetings or conferences organized by him, and to know that he would no longer be “our man in Washington.” I won’t be hearing his voice again–always forward thinking, always creating new and inspired initiatives.

He invited RTE to participate in many conferences of which he was an organizer, such as The World International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC2008), a major world conference put on by the State Department and The American Council of Renewable Energy (ACORE). We were invited by him to have an Official Side Event, a conference within the conference, where we met ministers and their representatives from Europe and all over the world. Bill donated a space to us to exhibit within the $5-6 million conference, and introduced us to U.S. government and international officials, providing an extraordinary opportunity to get our message out.

Every year, Bill invited us to take part in the Sustainable Energy Expo on Capitol Hill at the U.S. House of Representatives, and every four years we were invited to the Environmental Inaugural Ball, of which Bill was an organizer.

As an organizer of ACORE’s Renewable Energy Latin America & Caribbean Conference & Exhibition (RELACCx2014) in Puerto Rico, Bill invited RTE to be represented by four speakers at the Integrated Farm Energy Systems workshop within the conference. This conference opened up a tremendous world of opportunities for projects that we are still exploring.

These are just a few highlights of the opportunities, in-kind donations, as well as financial contributions that he gave to RTE. He was generous to all organizations he believed in and supported, including his own organization Renew the Earth.

Bill Holmberg dining with Joanna Campe at the Army Navy Club in DC

One of the very few times that I have been able to reciprocate his generous support on behalf of RTE for ACORE was when I met with the mayor of Bogotá, Antanus Mockus, at the time a presidential candidate for Colombia, who was speaking at the World Bank. Filmmaker Jeff Zimbalist and I spent the day with Mockus discussing the possibility of making a documentary about him, and Bill requested a meeting to speak with him about energy priorities and initiatives in Colombia. I was so happy to be able to put together a meeting for him with the mayor.

I probably knew Bill for about 20 years before I became aware that he was the most decorated soldier in the Korean War, something he personally never mentioned or spoke about, but it was consistent with the extraordinary dedication and integrity that I came to admire in him. In fact, I would say that Bill was a person whose integrity was absolutely peerless, and it was through Bill that I was introduced to so many other highly dedicated colleagues at the EPA, at the State Department, and in Congress.

He was a pioneer and a hero of renewable energy. Through his policymaking, his years spent at the EPA, and while walking the halls of Congress, he was a tireless advocate of renewable energy and biofuels. He was a cofounder of ACORE and Chairman of the Biomass Committee. Bill believed that remineralization was crucial to making biofuels sustainable.

The last email that he sent me was an idea for an inspiring project, in which he wrote,

Bill Holmberg with Pres. Johnson

We need to develop a new educational process providing somewhat equal opportunities for the working classes and their communities throughout the world. They will then be able to more fairly compete with overpowering governmental, financial and corporate leaders. Education, leadership, advancing science and technology, and the continual forthcoming digital revolution are now becoming the great equalizers. We need to start with the community colleges where the middle class is best served and readied for a more commanding position in a sustainable planet.

The end of the email included this bio:

I am an Alumnus of the US Naval Academy, George Washington University, the US Army Detachment R where I specialized in the Russian Language and Soviet Affairs during the Cold War; and, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College where I was the top award winner. I am a medically Retired Marine Lt. Colonel, highly decorated. I am also a retired Senior Executive Service government employee — EPA, Federal Energy Office in the White House, Federal Energy Agency and the Department of Energy where my case was sent to the Department of Justice for a Grand Jury (1st SES to go before a Grand Jury) because of my determination to support fuel ethanol to reduce dependence on imported oil. Jim Woolsey, former Director of the CIA, was my attorney. We won.

He was featured in the book The Forbidden Fuel due to his success in bringing biofuels into the fore.

Next to my desk in my office is a beautiful, expansive Calla Lily that is now 27 years old and thriving, a gift from Bill on the date of the birth of my daughter Gaea. It will always remind me of Bill’s generosity, dedication, and commitment to service.

 

Joanna Campe is the founder and Executive Director of RTE. She raises public awareness of the crucial role of soil remineralization with finely ground rock dust, sea minerals and other natural means to regenerate soils, forests and stabilize the climate. She promotes partnerships with foundations and educational institutions, government agencies, international development agencies, the private sector, and NGOs. She has decades of conference participation, project organization, authorship, public speaking, professional networking, policy advocacy, and public awareness building. She has co-authored several research papers and is the co-editor of Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase.


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