An Interview with Jim Bell

by on April 13, 2009 · 2 comments

in Energy, Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

This is the second in a series on Jim Bell, a well-known. local environmentalist who has thrown his hat into the ring several times in recent years.  Jim also sits on the Board of Directors of People’s Food Co-op, and was instrumental in the design of the Co-op’s new building. The following interview is by Dave Gilbert, a long-time OBcean but new blogger for the OB Rag blog. Dave submitted the questions to Jim by email.

Dave Gilbert: You didn’t run for mayor last time, why not and will you run again?

Jim Bell: I did run for a while and took out papers but I dropped out and endorsed Floyd Morrow. I though he would have campaign money and might have a better chance to win than I would. I felt that if he had been elected, a life-support sustaining San Diego would be much more possible than if any other candidate in the race won. Unfortunately, in the end he didn’t attract the support I hoped he would, and Sanders won. I probably won’t run again unless there is a huge groundswell of support.

Dave G: What kind of job do you think Jerry Sanders is doing?  For example, is he playing a meaningful role in preparing the San Diego/Tijuana Region to be able to provide the energy, water and food to serve the needs of its current and future population?

Jim B: I didn’t get to know him much on the campaign trail but I assume he’s trying to make our city work, but from what I’ve seen so far he doesn’t have a clue about the foundational issues our city, region and world are facing. If he isn’t leading in this, he’s relegated himself to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. He’s like the right guy for the job but in the wrong century.

DG: What could he do better?

Recognize the danger that our economy and way of life are in and develop a city wide plan to engage our local businesses, and workers into making our city and region renewable energy self-sufficient by investing in making our buildings and infrastructure more energy efficient and by developing our renewable energy resources.  Becoming renewable electricity self-sufficient is a foundational step toward becoming renewable energy self-sufficient with alternatives to natural gas sub and gasoline. Becoming energy self-sufficient is essential to becoming renewable water and food self-sufficient as well.

If we don’t achieve these things soon, most of the issues that occupy us now will be the least of our worries.

DG: What would you do differently than him to fix our city’s budget crisis?

JB: If I were Mayor, the first order of business would be to become renewable energy self-sufficient. if this was accomplished, it would turn a $6 billion per year negative-cash-flow out of San Diego County ‘s economy (to pay for imported energy) into a $6 billion positive-cash-flow into the county’s economy or a $12 billion economic multiplier benefit each year. Becoming renewable energy self-sufficient will give us the energy we need to become water and food self-sufficient for This is foundational.

Renewable energy self-sufficiency is key to becoming water and food self-sufficient.  I’ve written on this subject extensively in my two books. The latest publication and most detailed is a Brief I co-authored with Dr. Honea, Faculty College of Business , SDSU. The Brief focuses on making San Diego County renewable electricity self-sufficient or net-metered-out. This publication is available on my website, (see below – click on “Green Papers”.)

With sufficient energy use efficiency improvements and renewable energy development, all the money OB, the City of San Diego and our region now exports to pay for imported energy would be returned to our local economies. Initially this money will return in the form of local business and job opportunities to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient and to develop our region’s renewable energy resources. And since most of business and employment will be local, most of the profits and wages earned in the effort will be spent locally, improving everyone’s bottom line.

DG: You’ve been called the Mayor of OB, how does that make you feel?

JB: Honored.

DG: What is your take on the passing of prop 8?

JB: The passing of Prop 8 was just plain misguided and will go down in history like arguments to justify slavery, separate but equal, and women being denied the right to vote and equal pay.

No one has control over who they are attracted to sexually. If you are attracted to someone you can choose to act or not act on that attraction but the attraction is there non-the-less.

On the deeper level of love, no one has control over who they fall in love with. If you really fall in love, there’s nothing to be done about it.

Marriage is the most profound celebration of the special feeling of mutual love. To deny that celebration in full to people so in love that they want to declare their love to the world in this most formal way is just plain unfair, anti freedom and an attack on every individuals “inalienable right”, as free beings to pursue “life, liberty and happiness” to their heart’s content as long as we don’t hurt or restrict the freedom of others to explore the same freedoms now and for future generations.

DG: I hear there’s a bill in Sacramento to legalize and tax marijuana, would that help to boost the economy?

JB: The most important thing it would do is to restore the US Constitution in that once a person reaches adulthood, they should be free to pursue life, liberty and happiness in any way they can imagine as long as it doesn’t hurt others or restrict their freedom to do the same. The government’s job is to protect our freedom to be ourselves.

DG: What about legalized sports, gambling, or prostitution? And, should the Government even be involved in something like that?

JB: Adults should be free to do what ever they want to, as long as they don’t hurt others or restrict their freedom. The government’s job is to protect our right to do whatever we choose to do as long as we do not hurt others, now or future, in the process. If people or groups seek to force, manipulate, intimidate us or anyone to do things we otherwise would not freely choose to do, it is the government’s duty to protect us from such individuals and groups.

DG: Should non violent drug offenders be released from our overcrowded prisons to help reduce the state budget crisis?

JB: Yes, most of these non-violent people were supporting themselves and their families before they were incarcerated. When we incarcerate people for non-violent “offences”, society ends up supporting them and their families. This is a lose-lose-lose situation.

Of course we should encourage each other to live healthy lives, but once we become adults, we should be free to eat, drink, smoke, snort, inject, etc., what ever we want as long as in doing so we don’t hurt others or our planet’s life-support system. Until people cross that line the government has no role in a free, democratic republic founded on the principle that each individual has the inalienable right and freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness on their own terms.

DG: Do you think President Obama will be able to reach across party lines to get this nation united or are we doomed to the major 2 parties continued bickering?

JB: Even with Obama’s election, to paraphrase Will Rogers, we still have the best government that money can buy. This is not to say that there aren’t good people in government who are genuinely working to improve the common good, but their efforts are largely muted by the control that well funded special interests have over many politicians.

The solution to this problem is publicly financed campaigns. With publicly financed campaigns politicians will be beholden to the public instead of to special interest campaign donors. This will make politicians more focused on serving the interests of the general public instead of that of special interest donors.

I consider myself to be pretty incorruptible, but when I’ve represented various clients, as an ecological designer, it’s easy to feel the tug to rationalize your client’s project. So far I’ve been privileged to not be forced into an economic situation that compelled me to compromise my integrity in the interest of promoting my client’s goals, but I know the feeling. When our way of life is dependent on the economic support of special interests, it is pretty hard to say no to them. With public financing, candidates and office holders can say no to bad ideas and ideas that benefit a special interest at the expense of others.

DG: Will the GOP ever be in touch with the middle class or is it that they only care about themselves and their immediate loved ones while Democrats seem to be looking at the bigger picture?

JB: In my view, it is not about party or ideology. It is about consciousness. If enough of us become conscious enough soon enough, all good becomes possible. Whatever one’s political beliefs and affiliation are, the more conscious we become, the more kind and gentle we will be with each other and our planet’s life-support system. The more conscious we become, the easier it will be to solve our problems.

DG: What’s your view of Rush Limbaugh?

JB: His heart has shriveled as his ego has grown. He’s the champion of those who rationalize that exploiting people and our planet’s life-support system is good for us and future generations.

DG: What would you do as President to fix our economy and unite Americans?

JB: Step one: Mobilize US business and industry to make the US renewable energy self-sufficient. If done intelligently, this will increase US economic activity by $400 billion to $800 billion each year by keeping the money we now export to pay for imported energy in the US economy. It would also eliminate energy use related greenhouse gas emissions.

Step two: Use renewable energy generated electricity, become renewable water and food self-sufficient. If you want to know how, go to my web site,, click on “Jim’s New Book”.

Step three: Restore the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

DG: What do you want to be remembered for accomplishing?

JB: For creating a life-support sustaining economy and way of life in the San Diego/Tijuana Region and planet wide. If this is not accomplished soon, there will not be anyone around to remember me or anyone else.

DG: What didn’t I ask you that you feel needs to be heard?

JB: As I said earlier, it is all about consciousness, if enough of us become conscious enough soon enough, the future of the human family will be bright. If we do not, the decline we are experiencing now will be the least of our worries.

To become more conscious we need to actively work on it. I work to become more conscious and I encourage everyone to do the same. As we become more conscious it helps everyone else become more conscious. The more conscious we become, individually and as the human family, the more the universe will open to us.

Becoming more conscious is practical, cost-effective, and life-support sustaining. Not becoming more conscious will sooner or later be our undoing, perhaps to extent of extinction.The more conscious I’ve become, the more I care about everyone and especially I care about our young and future generations.

This is why I’ve devoted my working life to educating people about how their planet’s life-support system works and how to use its productive potential in ways that will never diminish its beauty, majesty or productive potential.

Toward this goal, I’m proposing that Ocean Beach form a Sustainability Future Coop along the lines of the Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Coop. A new parallel organization, focused on creating a prosperous life-support sustaining economy and way of life in Ocean Beach , in our region and ultimately planet wide. Please contact me if you are interested in helping form the new coop. 619-758-9020.

Go to my web site,, for more info, “Green Papers” and publications.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bodysurferbob April 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm

thanks dave for the interview with jim bell. have always admired him from a distance. and you made him a real person for me. I do have a question for jim bell. you consulted with a hotel – designed for good green – that is going in or was going to be built in northeast Mission Bay – but it is a hotel nevertheless – question: how do you juggle that and your green perspective elsewhere? thanks in advance for your response.


Dave Gilbert April 15, 2009 at 8:51 am

Thanks bodysurferbob,

I don’t know if Jim does any blogging but his ph# is in the interview and I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your question.

Happy body wompin’


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