Itz’ana Sales Manager Shaylene Todd introduces us to one of our owners.
On the heels of the announcement that Belize is banning all forms of single-use plastic and styrofoam by Earth Day in April of 2019, environmental conscientiousness is no longer just a concept here, but an obligation to adhere to. As a five year resident of Belize, I am extremely proud to be living in this country that is being recognized on a global scale for its conservation efforts—it was, for example, the first country in the world to put a moratorium on all offshore oil and exploration drilling. At Itz’ana, we take our responsibility to be mindful of our resources seriously and are honored to introduce you to our most senior owner and future resident, Harry White, who was one of the founding fathers of “going green.”
Harry is 89 years old, and has been diagnosed with bladder cancer which he has chosen not to treat. Over the Easter holiday, he fulfilled one of the remaining items on his bucket list by coming to Belize and snorkelling in the blue Caribbean waters. A longtime lover of the ocean and one time Atlantic Fleet Champion Swimmer, getting into the water again was a must. Coming to Belize, in particular, was fitting because of his role in making green living possible.
Joined by his loving daughter, Kathleen, who owns a villa of her own at Itz’ana, I had the privilege of sharing breakfast with Harry and learning more about his life and legacy. And what a legacy it is.
After a five year term in the US Navy, the two-time war veteran worked for 38 years at Bell Laboratories, the institute behind such inventions as radio astronomy, the transistor and the laser. One of just 200 members of technical staff in the solid-state physics department, he worked on LED lighting, ultimately—after ten years of persistence—inventing two of its fundamental pillars: red and green LED light in 1972.
This discovery led to the widespread use of LED lighting in daily life such as the first light-up bush button phones, indicator lamps, circuit boards, traffic lights and digital displays. It was only in the past twenty-five years that the blue LED was demonstrated and—with all three pillars in place—this white light can now last 100 years and consume only a 100th of the energy as regular power. LED’s energy efficiency continues to increase as costs for manufacturing, materials, distribution, and design begin to decline, as does, most importantly, their associated carbon footprint.
Harry worked alongside six Nobel Prize-winners,responsible for the invention of the transistor, the semiconductor, photovoltaics and the charged couple device. Major developments that created millions of jobs and paved the way for green initiatives. Harry describes this time in his life, and in history, as the Golden Era. “There was very little vulgarity and that made the whole thing pleasant,” he says. “Everyone was willing to help each other.” He describes the process of discovery as slow, but that through substantial team effort—from everyone including theoretical physicists to machinists—they were able to achieve better and better efficiencies. When that happened, they’d declare “hot ziggity!” and then strive to repeat and improve on their results.
The dynamic between father and daughter at this breakfast was nothing short of endearing. “She’s always bragging about me,” he told me, in his humble way. Proving his point, Kathleen went on to describe how “he could build anything,” and recounted how proud she felt when, in 1974 as a young student in science class, they soldered the LED light that her father had created onto a solar cell that his friend made. They stuck it out the window and, in the sun, it lit up! Harry expounds that seeing his LEDs in practical uses, making such a difference, is what he would consider his biggest accomplishment.
Despite insisting, with a grin, that he’s “a quiet guy," Harry went on to tell me about his years volunteering in an ER in New Jersey where he did “minor stuff that helped." The patients were always cold and he’d bring them a warm blanket and tell them “I can handle your problems, just tell me what they are.” After a major health scare, he moved to San Francisco to be with his family in the Napa Valley. Despite his age and failing health, the first thing he wanted was a car. He navigated the roads and cliffs to get to town, where he negotiated with everyone to give him books for free. He then had a cart made from which he started giving away thousands of books to patients. Once again, he became the bright face that people in need would look forward to seeing.
With a history of development in the green economy, Belize sources its power primarily from renewable resources, namely hydro and biomass energy. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the dependence on imported fossil-derivative energy with a commitment to foster interest in the fields of solar and wind. At Itz’ana, through our use of solar energy and our commitment to sustainability, we are in alignment with this initiative. I can’t help but consider all the ways that Harry and his esteemed colleagues laid the groundwork for this to be an achievable goal, and am elated that he is among our group of owners. With his imparted words of wisdom, “dedication pays off," I’m left with the notion that with both commitment and humility like Harry’s, and of course, armed with his LED, a more sustainable future could be ahead of us.
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