Jim Bell – A Brief Biography

Family History
Jim Bell was born in Wilmington, North Carolina.  His family moved to Long Beach, California in 1943, and in 1951, to San Diego, where he has lived ever since.

Jim attended the following schools in or near San Diego:

  • Chesterton Elementary,
  • Montgomery Junior High,
  • Grossmont High, and
  • El Capitan High, from which he graduated in 1960.

Jim attended college at Palomar College, a community college near San Diego, and California State University Long Beach (CSULB), in Long Beach, California.

In both high school and college, Jim participated in a number of sports, including track, cross country, and basketball.  While in college at the two schools cited above, he played varsity basketball.

Work History
During high school Jim helped support his family by working as a gardener, ditchdigger, and as a carpenter’s helper.  During and after college he worked as a carpenter.

During the late 60s and early 70s Jim became concerned about the impacts of human activities on the environment and our quality of life.  He became increasingly convinced that there were “smarter” ways to conduct our lives and build our communities that would minimize negative impacts.

Toward this goal, starting in 1974 Jim persued a career as an Ecological Designer, and as a public lecturer on the principles of Ecological Design.  He is the author of “Achieving Eco-nomic Security On Spaceship Earth” and numerous other articles and papers on creating sustainable economies.

Working with People
Jim has served as a Director of Ocean Beach People’s Food Cooperative, the San Diego Ecology Center, I Love a Clean San Diego, Environmental Health Coalition, the California Association of Cooperatives, and former San Diego mayor Dick Murphy’s Environmental Task Force. 

Currently, Jim serves as Director of the Ecological Life Systems Institute and the San Diego Center for Appropriate Technology, and as representative of the Sierra Club on the City of San Diego’s Regional Advisory Energy Committee.

Professional Life
Jim is an internationally recognized expert on life support sustaining development.  His projects include the design and construction of the San Diego Center for Appropriate Technology and Ecoparque, a prototype wastewater recycling plant in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. 

Instead of just “treating” raw sewage, this plant recovers the water and nutrients, in the form of irrigation water and compost.

Jim also served as a consultant for the Otay Ranch Joint Planning Project and the East Lake Development Company.  He is currently designing a life support friendly hotel for Terra Vista Management and is an ecological design consultant for the Ocean Beach People's Food Cooperative's new “green” store.  Jim has over 40 years experience in the design and construction industry.

As a lecturer, Jim speaks to many groups each year.  His lecture credits include the California State Conference, of the American Institute of Architects, the World Conference of the Society for International Development in Mexico City, and keynote addresses at the University of Oregon’s first “Visions for a Sustainable Future” conference and the State of Oregon’s Solar Energy Association Conference.  Jim is often interviewed by television, radio, and the press, and he has been a guest on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation.”

Jim’s honors include:  The Society of Energy Engineers’ Environmental Professional of the Year for the Southwestern States, a “Beyond War” award, and a Water Conservation Design Award from the City of San Diego for one of his projects.

Political Involvement
In 1996 and 2000, Jim ran for Mayor of San Diego.  He ran again for the 2nd District City Council in 2002.  Though he has not yet been elected, his ideas relating to making our region energy, water and food self-sufficient as soon as possible are being embraced by an increasing number of elected officials.