Saturday, February 24, 2018

James McGinley pauses Monday morning while en route to Hardin in his solar-powered bicycle. The ELF, as the vehicle is called, runs entirely on solar power and was designed by Organic Transit in Durham, N.C.


James McGinley travels cross-country to stave off destruction of Earth
Those meeting James McGinley for the first time don’t need to look hard to figure out his general viewpoint. A tattoo across the front of his face states, “Wage Love or Die.” In addition, three crosses tattooed on his forehead each contain a phrase: “Stop Starving,” “Stop Killing” and “Start Loving.” The last phrase – “Start Loving” – also serves sometimes as his chosen name.
Monday morning, James McGinley could be seen cycling west along the Interstate 90 frontage road near Dunmore in an egg-shaped vehicle powered by seven solar panels – six on a flatbed trailer in the back and one on top.
“This vehicle is made in North Carolina by a company by the name of Organic Transit,” he said. “They call it the ELF.”
The ELF, whose name stands for “Empowering Legs & Fusion,” is an electric-assisted bicycle that the Organic Transit website claims to be “the most efficient vehicle on the planet.” According to the site, the vehicle “requires no gas, license, registration or insurance” and can handle a 350-pound payload. Using electric power only, the ELF moves at about 20 miles per hour; with pedaling, it can move 30 miles per hour.
McGinley travels an average of about 60-80 miles per day, he said, though Monday was cloudy, so he would likely only make it to 30. At night, his trailer doubles as a bed following five minutes’ preparation. With the help of “major enhancements,” McGinley has upgraded the vehicle to the point that it can travel through the Appalachian Mountains.
“The purpose of this is to give people the opportunity to realize that the sun gives us enough energy in an hour to power everything on Earth for a year with the technology we’ve had for 40 years,” he said.
Business Insider, an international news website, compiled data from the U.S. Department of Energy in September 2015 and found that the sun gives off 430 quintillion joules of energy to the Earth each hour. This is about 20 quintillion joules more than the amount used annually by humans.
The following month, they published an article stating, based on lab tests, “we’d only need to cover a land area about the size of Spain to power the entire Earth renewably in 2030.”
Saving the environment from fossil fuel pollution, as a concept, isn’t McGinley’s end goal. His true motive, he said, is to do what he can to make world a better place “for our grandchildren.”
“I don’t care about renewable energy, I don’t care about solar, I don’t care about wind, I don’t care about coal,” he said. “I care about your future, I care about the grandchildren’s future, and it so happens that burning fossil fuels is destroying life on Earth.”
In 1997, he left his job as vice president of Applix Inc., an international computer software company based in in Westborough, Mass. when he became disillusioned with his work. In 2001, he also left his wife and sons, and moved into his car.
Quoted in a May 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times, his eldest son Steven, then a 31-year-old chef, said he follows his father by reading his blog. He added that McGinley “would not be happy or satisfied even remotely living a conventional life.”
“I believed, from a very early age, that life could be unending joy,” McGinley said. “What I found was that my successful career as an executive in high-tech was unending pleasure, an unending sense of intoxication with the power and intellectual challenges – but there was no joy in it.”
Joy, he believes, is attained when one acts in the service of others. Mother Nature, he continued, designed people in a manner where joy “feels better” than pleasure, or acting in the service of oneself.
“I was almost 50 and realized we have a lot of suffering brothers and sisters on this planet,” he continued. “We’re not here to make rich people richer.”
He received his facial tattoos in 2007 during a 48-day hunger strike in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C.
In an interview with the Washington Post at his hunger strike, McGinley said he was trying to draw attention to the war in the Darfur region of Sudan. This war includes a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese government against Darfur’s non-Arab population, and has continued for nearly 14½ years since 2003 and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.
“What I’m doing is not clever,” he told the Post on the 44th day. “It’s exactly what Gandhi, what King, what Jesus did.”
Since he left the corporate world, McGinley also has been involved in attempts to stop the killing of Palestinians by Israelis and the U.S. bombing of Iran. 
On Feb. 23, McGinley braved the Midwestern winter as one of the final holdouts in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest south of Mandan, N.D.
He had left Washington, D.C. in September 2016, believing “my sisters and brothers in D.C. are already dead in the heart left, right and center.” Among the “water protectors” near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, however, he witnessed actions that he stated online rivaled those of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for civil rights.
Texas-based pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners LP stated the structure would carry 470,000 barrels of oil daily in an inexpensive, environmentally friendly manner. Protesters believed leaks in the pipeline would contaminate their drinking water.
Eventually, McGinley and more than 45 others were arrested. After spending the night in jail, he repaired his vehicle and “resumed my journey across the country.”
He thought the Standing Rock protests “could be a turning point for all the world’s young people.” Now, he continues his search, despite having little privacy or security.
“I have no hope for our grandchildren’s future,” he said. “They have everything they need, except the only thing they need, which is enough adults to stand up and nonviolently fight for their future, to stop our insane addiction to the lies of the fossil fuel industry and insane levels of consumption.
“I see that it could change. It could be that we’re better than this.”
McGinley posts regularly on his Facebook page at