The voice on the end of the line: retired military pilot thanks new donors

As I sat across from Dogwood Initiative volunteer Lloyd Skaalen in a downtown Victoria coffee shop, I immediately noticed a No Tankers pamphlet sitting on our table. With a slight grin he confessed to placing them in all sorts of places across Victoria.

A shiny gold pin fastened to the collar of his jacket also caught my eye and he told me it was of an unmanned airplane.

“They’re remotely piloted drones the Canadian Army used in Afghanistan. Instead of manned airplanes, using these we can do so much more: they’re cheaper, smaller, they use less fuel and you don’t have to build in all those human support functions.”

I’ll admit I was taken aback by his answer. Dogwood volunteer and army aircraft expert? At first I couldn’t discern the connection, but for Skaalen everything boils down to practicality.

“Pilots have to endure hours and hours of boredom flying from point A to point B. I’m sure we’ll soon see the day where we have unmanned commercial airplanes – we’ve got our Sky Trains, don’t we?”

Skaalen’s background includes 45 years in aviation: 35 years with the Canadian Air Force, seven years as an air transport commander as well as some time in the early ’50s as a NATO fighter pilot. Thinking back on the days when he used to transport planes across the Atlantic to Europe, Skaalen mused that he’s left an awful lot of pollution around the world.

“As commander of air transport I truly discovered the need for fuel conservation. We had many problems relating to lack of fuel and had to very seriously conserve it, flying only at the most economic speeds.”

Skaalen says it was during that time oil and gas prices began to skyrocket.

“We could already be fully powered by solar energy if we had started the research before. If, in 1950, we had predicted highway use and seen the writing on the wall, we could be totally self-sufficient by now,” Skaalen says.

“In North America we’re so dug into bad ideas about energy – we got rid of trains and streetcars and replaced them with highways and big shopping centres with huge parking lots.”

I started to realize Skaalen wasn’t such an unlikely environmental activist after all. For someone who had been so deeply involved in wide-scale transportation and really understood our long-term shift in global energy consumption, he witnessed firsthand a very flawed evolution.

Skaalen’s activist journey started in 2003 when he joined Island Transformations Organization, a group with a goal to create a more livable and sustainable Vancouver Island. He acts as their webmaster and developed their list of supporters. Skaalen has also been involved in countless other organizations and campaigns and is engaged in sustainability issues, alternative energy options and land use matters.

“I’ve been on the fringe of almost all of them but Dogwood seems to have the right attitude,” he says.

Skaalen first got involved with Dogwood Initiative in 2010 as he was passionate about land development issues in the Juan de Fuca region. “That’s what prompted me to make my first donation and start participating with Dogwood,” he says.

Since then, Skaalen has become one of Dogwood’s most committed volunteers.

With a barrel-like voice, it’s never any secret when Skaalen’s in the office extending thanks to new donors by phone.

“I really enjoy the phone calling – in fact, I almost went into broadcasting. A lot of conversations go on for longer than I expect, but those ones are personal and fun.”

Skaalen also made a presentation at the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings in January. Unlike many senior presenters who expressed grave concern for the future of their children and grandchildren, Skaalen’s plea was much more matter-of-fact. He admits he’s not too sure if his children and grandchildren are really on board with what he’s doing.

“I just want to see us get to a place where we don’t need to fight fossil fuels but rather promote clean energy technology. We must stop being hostages to the oil kingdoms and cartels which have been leading the world to believe fossil fuels are absolutely necessary.”

In short: “We absolutely have to get along with our natural world.”

As I stood up to gather my things, I noticed there wasn’t just one No Tankers pamphlet neatly placed at our table – there was one in front of every single seat in the coffee shop.

It’s a practical approach for a practical man – and we’re very grateful for Skaalen’s support.

Interested in helping thank new donors? Call Don at 250-370-9930 ext. 28.

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