MSc in Integrative Ecosocial Design
Gaia University

Richard Kühnel

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Dear Reader,

I grew up in Erlangen, Germany. I attended a high school that specialized in music education. There I started learning piano, adding to accordion, which I had started at age six and played in a youth orchestra. Due to the separation of my parents I moved to Saalfelden, Austria, when I was 12 years old where I attended a boarding school, the last 3 years with an emphasize on sports. After graduation from high school, so called "Gymnasium", I did undergraduate studies in psychology and clinical psychology in Salzburg, Austria. Already as a student my career as a professional software developer and systems analyst began. Since then I have been either self-employed or owned a software company in the field of information technology. At the same time, during a ten year period, I gathered lots of experience in organizing events from small to very large, specifically the registration side of things. Before I moved to the USA in 1993 to live with Berta, I had lived in different places in Germany, mainly in Berlin and Frankfurt. In the USA we first lived in Boulder, Colorado. Berta and I married in 1994. After Berta completed her training as a licensed Chinese acupuncturist and herbalist, we moved to Sandpoint, Idaho in 1995 where we bought our current home in 1998.

Since my teenage time I have been on a journey of personal growth and development. During my time as a student in Salzburg I lived for several years in an ashram, renouncing any material possessions beyond personal clothes and toiletries, spending the day doing service, meditation, attending inspirational meetings with and without my spiritual teacher and, in my case, studying for university. After 25 years of daily meditation practice and following the teachings of my spiritual master, over a time of several years I started to disassociate myself from this path. Finally I paused from any inner work for a while. Some years later I felt the need to continue my personal journey. I visited several times a healer in Brazil and today I am working with the medicine wheel of an Incan shamanic tradition.
Already in high school I developed an interest in non-conventional science, maybe sparked by some of the many science fiction books I read. Particularly para-psychology and the work of Wilhelm Reich fascinated me. This also lead later on to an interest and taking courses in complimentary health and healing, like cranio-sacral therapy, Reiki, Reconnective Healing and soul retrieval.
Both these areas, inner experience and science on the edges of conventional acceptance, have started to overlap and are influencing how I see the world, carry myself, and direct my activities.

My learning and developing of skills in the field of information technology has started at age 15, when I learned my first programming language, Fortran, from a book. I have worked as an operator for mainframe and mini computer systems, as a programmer, systems analyst, project manager and business consultant. Together with a friend, I was the owner of a German software company that we managed. Then as still today this company provides solution for publishing companies, including magazines, advertising journals and daily newspapers. After moving to Sandpoint I worked for 4 1/2 years for Dakotah Direct (later a subsidiary of West), first as a programmer/analyst and later as the manager of the application development department. This has been at this point my only long term employment and gave me valuable insights into the corporate world of the USA and into myself.
In the course of my IT career I did projects as a one-person contractor, managed IT teams of up to 7 people and learned about German, Austrian and US-American bookkeeping systems. All the skills acquired in this field I applied to working with groups of up to 50 people organizing events of up to 10,000 participants. I worked with different types of businesses and organizations, for example a data processing center, a whole foods national distributor, a recycled paper products manufacturer and distributor, a books and records mail order business and personal development organizations and have experience in call center operations and cash control at conferences.

In the mid eighties I got interested in sustainability, at that time associated with environmentalism. I took my first Permaculture Design course in 1985 in Germany and maintained an experimental permaculture garden bed for a couple of years at an Eco-Center in Berlin, Germany. I assisted in the development of an apartment sized composting toilet building several prototypes. I interned at an organic farm, worked on a few straw bale projects, visited some permaculture projects and several eco-villages around the world and developed educational materials. I started and operated a local fruit collection scheme for a year.
In 2002 I founded the Inland Northwest Eco-Center (INEC) in Sandpoint, which operated for 2 years. We had a small bookstore, a resource library with books, magazines, videos and Internet access for research, all free to the public. It also provided meeting space for sustainable oriented groups, classes and workshops. We started a small seed exchange, had a permanent display for green building material samples and had started working to convert the yard into a demonstration site for small scale permaculture oriented systems. We rented office space to professionals and organizations that fit our vision. We renovated the rooms as green as possible, recycling anything we could, had a kids eco-action group and worked on concepts of green information technology. After I broke my femur in a bike accident the INEC offices closed in October 2004. The Eco-Center currently sells books on sustainability related subjects in two local bookstores.
Together with a friend I started teaching local classes in permaculture and related subjects. Recently I helped jumpstart a local chicken broiler business on an organic farm and consulted on developing a management system for sustainable oriented manufacturing and service companies.
My main current project is to retrofit our home property into a site for urban residential sustainable living.

I am an active member of several organizations:
The Public Forum on Sustainability (PFOS) is a local organization that brings experts to the town on specific sustainability related issues to do presentations for the interested public, for example on biodiesel, Take Back your Time, City Repair, Sustainable Agriculture, permaculture, indigenous knowledge, etc. It also supports world change organizations with event logistics and brings the different groups together to create synergies between the different activities.
The Northwest Ecobuilding Guild (NWEBG) is an association of builders, designers, homeowners, trades people, manufacturers, suppliers and others interested in ecologically sustainable building. I am also their webmaster.
At the Sandpoint Farmers Market I am selling micro-greens, fruits, gourds and other products from our garden during the growing season.
The Climate Change Action Network (CCAN) group has formed to take practical steps to reduce carbon emissions in the Sandpoint area. I am helping in the research committee.
I am also member of several other organizations:
The Rock Creek Alliance, a local organization, works on preventing a copper and silver mine to start operation in an area draining into the largest sweet water lake in the Rocky Mountains.
The Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas, researches completely amazing systems of perennial grain crops.

I do web and software projects for sustainable oriented professionals, organizations and businesses, among them the Northwest Ecobuilding Guild, Studio for Sustainable Design, Yaak Valley Forest Council and Gaia University.

I am an Austrian citizen, a resident US alien, fluent in German as well as English. I have an older brother, two half sisters, a step sister and 4 nieces. My mother still lives in Erlangen, has remarried and has been severely disabled for the last 20 years. I am a challenged cook and athlete. In our household we receive subscriptions to Natural Home, the permaculture Activist, Ode, The permaculture Magazine, The Last Straw, Acres USA and the local newspaper, called the Daily Bee. We are members of AAA and enjoy the occasional hike and going out to restaurants and cultural events. I can use tools, drive a car and ride a bike, organize just about anything and forgot how to play instruments. We live quite healthy and haven't skied for years or taken pharmaceuticals beyond an aspirin. I am interested in real estate and money. I still have a lot of dreams, enjoy the company of people and like to watch movies, laugh, have good conversations and play chess. I love hugs, dancing and specially Berta.

Richard Kuhnel

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