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Peter King ’86

Interviewed By: 
Christian Feuerstein '94

Peter King ’86 is one half of the dynamic duo Sweet & Fizzy (www.sweetandfizzy.com), a digital design firm responsible for multimedia, illustration and web design for clients such as Thomson-Wadsworth, The Chicago History Museum, Hewlett-Packard, and, oh yes, Antioch College. "Lissie Fein and I operate Sweet and Fizzy out of our home office in Easthampton, MA," he said recently via e-mail. "Last year, we were asked to bid on designing the new website for Antioch College, as it was anticipated that independence was imminent. We had just accepted a large design job developing a series of multimedia touchscreen kiosks for an equestrian museum in Lexington, Kentucky and knew we would be pretty busy, but how could we refuse a dream job integrating our design skills with our passion in helping with Antioch College's phoenix moment? So we've been busy, but we have been able to keep our customers happy."

In this interview he talks about the future of biochar, being a part of an Antioch College family, and how Antioch College made him forget all about Hampshire College.

What brought you to Antioch College? What was your major? My parents met at Antioch, so my existence is a product of Antioch's existence. I grew up in Yellow Springs, and as a high school senior, was teaching myself computer graphics programming. My high school had only one computer, so I spent a lot of time at Antioch's computer lab, and got to know [computer science professor] Warren Watson. My brother Aaron was at Antioch, and my sister Lisa had just graduated. I liked Antioch, but seeking my independence I only applied to Hampshire College. Hampshire didn't accept me, however-[it] consider[ed] me a risk as my high school performance was in decline. They liked my essay responses, and invited me to reapply if I could demonstrate success at another school.

It was spring break, and after returning from disappointing high school parent-teacher conferences, my parents suggested I enroll in Antioch, which had classes starting the following week. Eureka! This was naturally a very appealing proposition. I found I had all the credits necessary to graduate high school, so dropped all my classes and enrolled at Antioch.

At first I planned to major in film, with a computer animation focus, but switched to painting after film professor Ted Lyman accepted a professorship at another school.

Was there a professor that made a huge impact on your life? Ha! That's easy: My dad, Louie King, taught in the education department for over 30 years, but I never took a class of his. We did take a computer class together though-I got to help him out! My dad was a huge influence on me. Presenting questions like how far does the universe go, when did it begin, he cultivated in me a wonder of science and being.

Recently, I learned he intended on majoring in engineering when he enrolled at Antioch. He had a DIY ethic and had built several boats as a teenager and cars as a young man. I recognize I have the same bug: after learning that the key to our future may rest in the secret of terra preta soils manufactured by ancient Amazonians, I began studying biochar. I've been designing/tinkering with a stove fueled with yard branch debris, that cleanly (virtually no smoke) makes charcoal. I charge the charcoal with compost nutrient and inoculate it with soil probiotics to make biochar.

When amended to soil, biochar acts as a reef for soil microorganisms, anchoring nutrients (and mitigating over-nutrification from agricultural runoff). As inert atmospheric carbon, amending soil with biochar is carbon negative. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests biochar may be humanity's last great hope. Biochar based terra preta soils in Amazonia have sustained high vitality for thousands of years. If approached sustainably on a global scale, we can bring down atmospheric CO2 while rebuilding and revitalizing the biosphere's soils.

What's your favorite memory of being at Antioch? The people! So many interesting people and wonderful discussions: studies, philosophy, current events. Antioch really provided an exciting atmosphere for learning, and I thrived. I loved it and lost interest in reapplying to Hampshire.

Will you be going to Reunion? Yes! It is an exciting time for Antioch College, and greatly inspiring to keep up and weigh in with all that is happening.

Any stirring words of wisdom about the independence of Antioch College? Today there is urgency for deep change, and many young adults selecting higher education seek the knowledge, outlook and training they will need to drive that change. Antioch College has a unique opportunity to address these pressing needs with the courageous and intelligent leadership and innovation we are known for.

Engineering and small business incubation should return to the mix. The exponential reductions in cost of cad/cam machining technology, combined with the rapidly growing open-source technology ethic enables a more democratizing access to technology and engineering design development. We need creative thinkers with leadership to design efficiently integrated re-localized living economies.

If you could bring one thing to the future of Antioch College, what would it be? In this age of over-consumption, we need to appreciate leveraging creative thinking and sweat equity to achieve more with less. Certainly Antioch needs funding, but the idea of leveraging the generosity of community participation is also of critical importance, and builds strong bonds.

Why do you donate to Antioch College? Because it is important to support sources of positive change. The world needs Antioch College now more than ever. We humans need to seriously refocus our priorities toward nurturing our future, and I think Antioch has a good handle on that.