Our Story

Our founder, Mike Rychener, is an ordinary retired IBM systems engineer.   Like many of us, he was troubled by the climate change and wondered what he, one individual, could do about it.

Mike had a simple idea: If more people were aware of the situation, including the abundance of positive actions available to individuals and groups, people would be empowered and inspired to begin imagining the world on the road to healing.

With transportation calculated to contribute about one-third of global CO2 emissions each year, shifting to electric vehicles moves the needle. Why not offer electric vehicles as incentive prizes? After all, the contest to be the first to fly across the Atlantic Ocean had sparked both the innovation and the public imagination that launched the airline industry.

In September 2015, Mike enrolled in a Duke Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) class taught by Ed Cox and Melissa Mills with the dramatic title, “Saving the World and Humanity: Turning Back Global Climate Change and Preventing Mass Extinction.”   The class laid out the basics: the science, technology, and human capacity to meet the challenge.

A word about the developers of that course: Ed Cox is an ordinary retired medical oncologist who had the idea that the transition to renewable energy is economically and technically feasible. Completing NC State University’s Engineering graduate program, he developed a plan to convert North Carolina to renewable energy.

Melissa Mills is an ordinary retired administrator whose career was spent building systems to integrate information and communication between groups with different functions.   Hyper-analytic and intuitive, she wanted to understand how to explain the mutuality of science and spiritual awareness in a world dependent upon the practicalities of economics and survival.   She studied theology, and began teaching with a course called “Ethics in Science.”

Mike gathered a group of like-minded people to brainstorm around a core idea: People like to have fun! Let’s make the pursuit of climate solutions and benefits of electric vehicles into a game!   He invited Virginia Lee, an experienced educational consultant, Harry Rodenhizer, an entrepreneur and morel farmer, and Wafa Khalil, a biochemist and science educator, to join the Founder’s Board of Directors.

Climate Cooperators was born.