About the founder and director
Naturalist Steve O'Neil is the founder and Executive Director of ENP
He is from Hendersonville, North Carolina.
A bit of a history lesson by Steve O'Neil.
The course of my life was set early on as a child growing up on a farm in the country near Hendersonville, NC. It was there that I developed a passionate curiosity and love for nature and for all living things - especially amphibians and reptiles and other misunderstood wild creatures such as Opossums, bats, and more.
Then, in Mr. Jackson’s 6th-grade classroom, I learned about the energy sources that power our society…and I also learned that these energy sources were creating pollution that was directly harming nature, wildlife, and our health. It was also in sixth grade that I learned about, and was captivated by, new technological solutions to the energy and pollution problems we were facing – These included clean, renewable energy and electric vehicles powered by that energy.
Ever since the inspiration of those early lessons, I have devoted my life to learning, teaching, and inspiring others about the beauty and wonder of wildlife and the natural world, our connections to nature, and how we can use cleaner energy and transportation sources to better conserve and protect the environment that we are so intricately connected to and depend on for our very survival.
This calling prompted me to found my non-profit organization, Earthshine Nature Programs (ENP), in 2010. ENP is a true nonprofit organization in that it is 100% volunteer-owned and operated with all programming income and donations being used to cover the cost of our nonprofit operations and educational projects - no one at ENP collects a salary. I truly believe that ENP's outreach programs throughout Western North Carolina have inspired thousands of people of all ages to better understand, conserve, and protect our wildlife and our shared natural environment.
For over a decade I have also worked as a naturalist and science educator at Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum, where I teach students ages 10 through their early 20s, how they can work to better understand and care for the natural world and themselves. My Trails students directly benefit from my nonprofit programs and projects since the ENP classroom is also their classroom - it is a win-win situation for all populations.
During my college years at Appalachian State University, Western Carolina University, and Haywood Community College, I studied wildlife and fisheries management, outdoor recreation management, experiential education, and zooarchaeology.
I have worked in many interesting seasonal and full-time positions at many well-known private, State, and National Parks, private inns, camps, and farms some of these include The Great Smoky Mountain National Park(TN/NC), Hammocks Beach State Park(NC), Chimney Rock State Park(NC), Falling Creek Camp for Boys(NC), Flat Rock Nature Canter(NC), Kitty Hawk Aero Tours(NC), The Great Smoky Mountains Railway(NC), Little Saint Simons Island Inn(GA), and Earthshine Lodge/Discovery Center(NC), Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum(NC).
My job titles have included: seasonal park ranger, trail ranger, interpretive naturalist, camp counselor, nuisance black bear, wild boar, Timber rattlesnake trapper/relocator, aircraft mechanics assistant, and science communicator.
My passions are reptiles and wildlife conservation, public nature education, renewable energy and Electric Vehicle(EV) technologies, and science literacy. I was greatly inspired to follow my dream of working with wildlife in my early years first by my adoptive parents Catherine and Clayton O'Neil who gave me a love for all things natural and real. Later I was influenced by Marlin Perkins and Jim on Wild Kingdom, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Grizzly Adams, Marty Stouffer's Wild America, Rachel Carson, Harry Butler Down Under, Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter," Captain Paul Watson of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Do good things.
I have conducted hundreds of nature, wildlife, energy and electric vehicle, and music presentations to thousands of children and adults over the years. I have led many camper groups of youngsters and adults into forests, fields, caves, swamps, and dunes in search of all things and all places wild and wonderful. I am a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles and Opossums.
I have put in hundreds of volunteer hours keeping track of several wild turtles and snakes in the wilds of WNC, and worked as a volunteer citizen scientist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's Nongame-Endangered Wildlife program monitoring threatened reptiles, amphibians, and bats.
I am a great advocate of protecting nature, wildlife, and our shared environment - the life-support systems that give us all life.
Not only do I support taking better care of our wildlife and our environment, but I also support that one of the best ways to do this is by using domestically-produced locally-sourced renewable energy sources to power our society and electric vehicle (EV) technologies to move us around.
I feel that by using these technologies, a person will be helping to protect and conserve nature, wildlife, and our environmental life-support system in a way that does not pollute the like traditional fossil fuel-based energy sources and/or internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. Furthermore, when an EV is powered by renewable energy sources it is the most efficient and cleanest way to drive - and all these are good things.
Countless peer-reviewed research projects, coupled with my ongoing renewable energy projects and research, almost a decade of EV driving experience, as well as a lifetime of interest and in-depth study of these technologies, as well as the rapidly growing fleet of available EVs, and the ramping up of renewable energy installations around the USA and the world, suggest to me that fossil fuels have reached the end of their usefulness in daily-driver-type vehicles and have in fact become a great detriment to our health, our shared environment, and our continued existence and future prosperity.
Evidence suggests the primary downsides of these legacy fuels and technologies come from many factors with the following being the most detrimental to our futures:
1. Their supply chain, refining, and point-of-use emissions/pollution are toxic to all life and cannot be made safe.
2. They are horribly inefficient and their extraction, refining, and transportation methods often use almost as much energy as they produce at the consumer point of use.
3. Their finite nature. As single-use products - they can only be used once - and when they run out - then what?
4. Their deep, dark, toxic connections to international and domestic political instability, division, infighting, war, and terrorism.
5. Their very long and very complex supply chains, and the simple fact that they have abysmal Leave No Trace ethics.
6. They have so many moving parts stretching all over the globe and if any one of these parts fails - the entire system fails. Then what?
Therefore, I believe it is only logical that fossil fuels should be retired as fast as reasonably possible as our society's primary energy and fuel sources* and replaced with cleaner, energy-secure, distributed, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, gravity, wave, and tidal energy sources coupled with the latest in energy storage technologies. *Keeping the remaining fossil fuels as backup energy sources for times of high demand/natural disaster situations and also for long-haul aircraft, ships, and trucks as well as rockets and interplanetary probes and research projects.
Logically, it is the right thing to do.
My support of this system-wide energy and transportation conversion is not in any way driven by a political leaning or a desire for profit - I do not play politics nor am I driven by a need to acquire profit. My support for these technologies is driven only by the best available evidence-supported peer-reviewed science, my own experience using these technologies, and above all else - a passionate commitment to stewardship and conservation of nature, wildlife, and our shared environment, and a deep desire to preserve our environment, our health, and our futures.