Stele Ely has a message for environmentalists who are searching for new Earth-saving endeavors: Think globally, screw locally.
"Giving love to the planet, somehow it makes lovemaking more fun," he says wistfully -- and with no trace of irony. In fact, he's so focused on his tangent about the preciousness of living things and his duty to protect creatures and plants, he doesn't even notice his forearm is bleeding. Crouching on the warm grass between Boulder Creek and the Central Park Bandshell, the 51-year-old is schooling a temporary pupil in the art of "envirorgasmic action" and his recently formed organization, Sex 4 the Planet. As he drawls on about the Earth and the solar system and sex, Ely finally spots the pinprick of blood rising on his arm. He dips his index finger in it and dots it around the tiny wound in a circular, tribal pattern of red markings before rubbing all of it away with his palm. He looks around to wipe his hand on something. He considers the edge of the white T-shirt he's wearing, but decides against it. It's a shirt he's very proud of, one that he hand-painted to advertise Sex 4 the Planet, what he calls the most ambitious -- and sexy -- environmental campaign of his life.
On the front are two male and female symbols, the slogan "For All the Life That Lives to Love" and his website, www.sex4theplanet.org, which espouses his mission to create "a global accord of 444 million sexy signers by 2011" -- the amount he estimates to be 12 percent of the Earth's current population. And what will these enlightened masses be signing up for?
"Sex 4 the Planet is a call for all lovers of the planet to come and stand united in the protection of the planet," Ely explains. "And in return be rewarded with the best sex possible."
Interested parties pledge to devote at least 1 percent of their time to ecological issues or give 1 percent of their net income to a green nonprofit. For each percent of time or cash donated, crusaders score 1.5 hours of sex. For example, based on Ely's calculations of a 150-hour work month, a member would need to work an hour and a half in each of the four Sex 4 the Planet target categories -- "Team," "Art," "Logic" and "Love" -- to acquire six hours of "sweet nookie-snooksie" during that month. Of course, Ely suggests, truly committed activists can procure the right for even more -- perhaps up to twenty hours of monthly sex -- by simply loving the Earth more.
When Ely first came up with the idea for the group three months ago, his girlfriend of two years wasn't particularly moved by the notion. "At the time, she wasn't turned on by the idea of rewarding yourself with sex for helping the planet," he says. "But now she loves it. She thinks it's hysterical; she thinks it's fun."
Fun in theory, at least. The logistics of how all these members are going to get laid, Ely admits, haven't been completely worked out. He hopes that many of the people will sign up with significant others or lovers with whom they can comfortably engage in intercourse. But for partner-less environmentalists, cashing in all those chips can be tricky. Ely directs them to the Sex 4 the Planet Yahoo group, where they can register and post pictures and messages that describe what they're looking for in an "eco-mate or green shag." They can also list events and strategies for future actions, which, in turn, raises the sex-score ratio for everyone. In a way, Ely sees it as a dating group for like-minded environmentalists.
"There's a lot of eco-people who don't want people that are just flapping their jaws about saving the Earth. They want people that are walking the talk, actually scoring for the planet," he says. "You know, like how hard-core runners will run with other runners that push them, that are up to their level of skill. So on Sex 4 the Planet, you're going to find some people that are up to your envirorgasmic ability, you know? That are up to your virility standards. There's a lot of people that want more sex, but it's hard to find people that you feel are on your same wavelength. And Sex 4 the Planet is going to bring some great people together."
The project has been many years in the making, starting when Ely was a kid growing up in Grand Junction in the '60s. From an early age, he had a deep concern for nature and living things; at sixteen, he was designing his own bean burgers. In 1974, when he was 21, he joined the Army as a field medic and moved to San Antonio to train in nursing with his young wife. After that marriage ended, he moved to Aspen and spent the next twenty years living in an eleven-foot trailer and working as a ski instructor, massage therapist and groundskeeper. Along with volunteering for organizations such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, Ely worked on his own small, off-beat environment-related projects. He would write custom songs on his guitar in exchange for a donation to an Earth-helping nonprofit. Or he would counsel people with "musi-ecology," a "neurolinguistic programming for what they want to happen in their lives in terms of their planet-based selves."
"I've always felt better and more energized when working on a project," Ely says. "I always felt stronger and could almost get it up easier."
In other words, environmentalism makes him horny. And after moving to Boulder five years ago, he discovered that there are a lot of other tree-huggers who feel the same way.
"Viagra is not necessary," he explains. "Most people who are environmentally committed -- if you look in their eye, they have fire. They're living some of the best life. Their bodies are looking good because they're treating their bodies and the environment right. And in a way, Sex 4 the Planet is a bit of an irony, because a lot of these people are already having some of the best sex there is. We're just making it so that they're having just absolutely superb sex. So now they say, ŒWow, I've done some work, and I can really see the difference that I can make.'"
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But if global domination is Ely's ultimate goal, he has a long way to go. Today, almost two months after the site was launched, only five people are signed up with his Yahoo group. But he's confident that the "sexy postcards" he's been planting around Boulder health-food stores and coffee shops will get the word out. He also plans on talking on radio stations and at other speaking engagements. "I mean, I'm open to anything," he says. "Maybe college classes?"
All of this work for the planet has cut into his free time, and when he sees some kayakers darting through the swollen waters of Boulder Creek, he jumps to his feet and watches, briefly distracted from his mission. But he remains positive that humanity's strongest impulse -- "hot whoopee-woo!" -- will be the saving grace for a planet in danger.
"I have a dream," he says. "I mean, what's one-twelfth of the planet saying, 'Yeah, I'll make love to the planet before I make love'? Yeah, it's a fun game; it's a good game. It's an idealistic game, and what's wrong with it?"