We Need to Slow Down: A Profile on Gary Kroll

By: Kenzi Murphy

Normally, our main way of getting around is by driving, but for Gary Kroll, a 51-year-old professor at SUNY Plattsburgh, has a preference of getting places by walking or biking. 

Kroll has a very energetic personality and he is always down to get a cup of coffee. It’s extremely easy to talk to Kroll, and he is always open to share his ideas and wisdom with you, or even just have a conversation too. You can always count on Kroll to be wearing some kind of vest and he will always start his classes by saying, “Are you guys OK and do you want to talk about anything?”

Kroll grew up in Florida in the 1980s, and that is where the spark for this lifestyle began. At the time, there was a lot of oil drilling going on in Florida, with multiple wells along the coast This environmental danger resonated with Kroll. 

Fast forward a couple years to when Kroll was training in environmental history with a specialty in animals at the University of Oklahoma, where he received his Ph.D. Kroll also attended The University of Florida where he received his masters’ degree. During his studies, Kroll did hours of reading on animals and how our environment is causing harm to them, which only made Kroll’s passion grow more.

Today, Kroll is a history professor, and he is still as passionate about the environment as he was then. Throughout his lifetime, he has only put about 390,000 miles on his vehicles. This averages to about 10,000 miles per year.  

The reason for such a low mileage number throughout his life is because he is extremely conscious about his carbon footprint. 

“When I put my foot on the accelerator, I feel like I’m damaging the environment and the animals in it,” Kroll said. 

His thinking process goes like this: A human at top speed can only run about 20 mph. But the second you get into a car and start driving, your body is moving at speeds greater than that. Humans were never meant to move at a speed faster than 20 mph. To go above that speed is dangerous and should feel extremely unnatural. 

For example, when you’re on an airplane and you start taking off, your body gets a feel of being pushed back because of the acceleration. That is your body’s way of telling you that you shouldn’t be moving that fast. That it is unnatural, he said. 

“I get that feeling every time I get into the car,” Kroll said. 

However, living in the North Country makes this lifestyle extremely difficult during the winter months. 

“I’m not morally consistent,” Kroll said. 

In the winter months, biking can be unsafe and Kroll often doesn’t have the time to bike or walk, so he usually resorts to driving. Although in the warmer months, it’s a lot easier for him to bike and walk, and it’s more enjoyable. 

Moreover, Kroll is all for other people trying this way of living. 

“I am constantly recommending it to other people,” Kroll said.  However, this lifestyle takes up a lot of time that most people don’t have. This explains why few people live like this. 

Kroll is an exception.

“Moving slowly requires so much time; however, you get used to it,” Kroll said. “I really like the slower lifestyle.” 

Gary Kroll. Photo provided by Gary Kroll.

He even loves it so much that he started teaching a class about it: “Thinking About Roadkill.” The class sounds a little startling at first, but it really does make you think about the world in a different way.

A hundred years ago, cars barely existed and roadkill was a term that was unknown to the world. For Kroll, roadkill is the metaphor here for all of the damages that cars have done to our world. 

The class includes numerous readings about cars and animals, along with some of Kroll’s writings on the subject. This is Kroll’s way of sharing his ideas through something he’s passionate about.

“I’ve always been good at telling the ideas and writing the stories,” Kroll said. 

Moreover, Kroll argues that taking your time and driving less is a good thing. 

“The virtues of stillness are so obvious to me,” Kroll said.  “The only way we can realize it is by hitting the breaks and slowing down.” 

Kroll  has this idea that you will never truly see the good from this lifestyle until you live it.

 “You won’t know it, until you get it,” Kroll said. He also said that you get to talk to a lot of people with this lifestyle, and that it’s another plus to his way of living. 

Kroll’s lifestyle is anything but ordinary, but based on what he said, it seems to be a really good fit for him. 

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