Collider Anniversary Celebrated on Visionary’s 80th Birthday

Photo by Mark-Ellis Bennett
Mayor Esther Manheimer, Collider CEO James McMahon, and Mack Pearsall.

The Collider, a downtown nonprofit innovation center focused on climate solutions, commemorated its first anniversary last month.

Collider visionary Mack Pearsall also celebrated his 80th birthday on the same day. About 200 enthusiastic members of the community came to join in on the festivities at their headquarters on the fourth floor of the Wells Fargo Building.

“Friends of The Collider” who attended the celebration included N.C. Rep. Susan Fisher, the Rev. Todd Donatelli; dean of the Cathedral of All Souls, and Anne Kimmel; an employee of Kimmel & Associates (no familial relation to the business’ owner Joe Kimmel). Fisher said Pearsall is someone who’s always been ahead of his time.

“It’s great to celebrate his birthday alongside this wonderful project that he instigated in Asheville,” she said.

Donatelli said global warming is an issue that merits our immediate action.

“Mack realizes that we are creating the legacy for our planet that the generations which follow us will inherit,” he said. Kimmel said she thinks Pearsall is an amazing visionary.

“It’s strategically a great idea to make Asheville such a viable asset for the businesses associated with climate change at this critical time when government funding for important issues is being cut,” she said.

In The Collider’s first year, organizations representing well over $5.1 trillion of assets have walked through its doors. Visitors who have engaged in what Pearsall calls “acts of consensual capitalism,” include city planners from across America, and students of all ages.   

Matt Mittan as master of ceremonies said if one looks across history in retrospect, it’s easy to identify miraculous things that have happened. 

“Very rarely in your own community do you get to come across that kind of historic event that’s still in the genesis phase, and that’s what The Collider is.” Mittan then introduced Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer who officially presented a proclamation naming March 18, 2017, as Mack Pearsall Day. 

Collider CEO James McMahon said to cement Asheville’s reputation as a Climate City, we need to bring together the world’s climate leaders, the world’s business leaders, and the world’s science leaders.

“We need them to get a physical hands-on taste of what it means to be in Climate City, and to that end, we’re planning a global conference a year from now on the business of climate, but Asheville style,” he said.

ClimateCon is scheduled to take place in March 2018.

McMahon announced that the event would be punctuated by art, music, and educational events.

“Of course, I expect some beer to show up because after all, this is Asheville. We expect it to be the world’s premiere conference for market driven climate solutions. A membership program will be available to anyone in the world who wants to join in and tap into our resources, expertise, energy, enthusiasm, and the innovation that we have to share,” McMahon said.

Pearsall presents himself as a confident man whose ego is neither overinflated nor fragile in any sense of the word. Pearsall credits “pure fate” with his introduction to the dangers global warming pose. “Climate change represents the greatest near and present threat to humanity. I’m surprised and disappointed by those who can’t recognize it, but for ideological reasons some people don’t seem to get it,” he said.

“Climate change represents the greatest near and present threat to humanity. I’m surprised and disappointed by those who can’t recognize it, but for ideological reasons some people don’t seem to get it,” he said.

Pearsall said fate also landed him in a unique community that is scientifically prepared to take on climate change, and do something about it. “Fortune allowed me to be in the financial position to get involved with a number of people having the exceptional climate science credentials to make a difference in the world. I also realized that climate change offered an opportunity for both investments and jobs in Asheville.” Pearsall, who describes himself as an “impatient optimistic philanthropist,” admits his investment in The Collider is both financial and emotional.

“Fortune allowed me to be in the financial position to get involved with a number of people having the exceptional climate science credentials to make a difference in the world. I also realized that climate change offered an opportunity for both investments and jobs in Asheville,” he said.

Pearsall, who describes himself as an “impatient optimistic philanthropist,” admits his investment in The Collider is both financial and emotional.

Beyond the manifestations of extreme weather, Pearsall warns what the “proposed draconian budget cuts” to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would mean to Asheville. 

“They could negatively impact the 282 high paying jobs in the Federal Building where we have Nobel Peace Prize winning scientists. My concern is that they would want to reduce the NCEI (National Centers for Environmental Information) to being merely a repository for information,” Pearsall said. “If they succeeded, it would roll back the 10-year plan we have to bring science and services to the NCEI.”

Pearsall said true success is defined by how many people measure their lives by you as a role model, not by the accumulation of money or fame. He then read part of a message from his granddaughter, Grace, who announced her plans to major in climate science at UNC Chapel Hill, and minor in public policy.

“[When I returned] from the Women’s March on Washington, I had an incredibly emotional experience. It made me think about my activism, how I can make it more effective, and how I can use my privilege to press for change on issues I care about. One thing I’m grateful for is how I’ve been exposed to your infectious passion and activism,” Grace read aloud.

“That message gave me a sense of legacy, so even though I won’t be here forever, there will be a member of the Pearsall family working to protect the environment, to save humanity, and to promote social justice,” Mack said.

By Mark-Ellis Bennett