Gary Duncan: Healed by the Land

by Kim Goldberg

February 7, 2014

Gary Duncan was a touring singer/songwriter as well as a successful builder and architectural designer until environmental illness (electrosensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity) rendered him unable to work or perform.

Gary Duncan was a touring singer/songwriter as well as a successful builder and architectural designer until environmental illness (electrosensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity) rendered him unable to work or perform.

Twenty years ago, Colorado native Gary Duncan was at the peak of his career as a professional builder, cabinet-maker, and architectural designer. But the same career that had rewarded him so well was about to take it all away. Gary plunged into a mysterious state of complete medical disability, which he was unable to explain despite seeing five doctors and having a $10,000 battery of tests performed. 

It ultimately took an acupuncturist to correctly diagnose Gary’s Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, triggered by years of exposure to formaldehyde in construction materials. 

Gary embarked on a series of lifestyle changes to rid his home and body of chemical toxins. An organic diet, elimination of pesticides, and a thorough housecleaning were all part of his health recovery. 

He responded quickly to the new protocol. But many of his worst symptoms remained, including headaches, tinnitus, and pain. Gary was determined to restore his health to one hundred percent. And that’s when he discovered the other piece of the puzzle contributing to his poisoning. 

Around this time, Gary met and befriended a man named Roland at a drumming circle. Roland was a building biologist and an electromagnetic field technician from Germany. When Roland visited Gary’s tiny trailer and brought his measuring instruments, the two men discovered that Gary had been living and sleeping in an alarmingly high electrical field—one that was many times higher than even the “extreme concern” level of fifty volts per meter, as set forth in building biology guidelines. 

“That’s when the battle began,” Gary explains. “As the unneeded appliances left my life, the remaining ones got shielded. I learned to avoid fluorescent lights, I dumped the CFLs [compact fluorescent lights], and things got dramatically better.” 

But the real turning point for Gary came later that winter in 2004. 

Gary spends his winters living in his 86-square-foot ”Micro Habitat"—a converted 1972 Nomad trailer. In this photo, he is parked 60 miles from town on the Colorado River in January. Outside, the temperature is 15 degrees below freezing. But inside, Gary is  warmed by the winter sun through a large window - cozy enough to play banjo in the nude, he says.

Gary spends his winters living in his 86-square-foot ”Micro Habitat”—a converted 1972 Nomad trailer. In this photo, he is parked 60 miles from town on the Colorado River in January. Outside, the temperature is 15 degrees below freezing. But inside, Gary is warmed by the winter sun through a large window – cozy enough to play banjo in the nude, he says.

“A very violent and shattering episode with a berserk, alcoholic landlord ended with me pulling my little travel trailer out of town in the middle of winter to a secluded canyon,” Gary recalls. “On the third morning, as I sat there with my cup of coffee, I had the distinct sensation that something was missing. What was gone was the pain, sinusitis, ringing in the ears, nightmares, despair, and fatigue that had destroyed my life for a decade without reprieve. I had slept like a baby both nights. I was fine.” 

In fact, Gary’s unplanned exit from civilization ten years ago confirms what is now known about both Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. Namely, they are both “functional impairments” (to use the Swedish designation), not innate personal disabilities. 

“There is nothing wrong with the patient,” explains Gary. “What’s wrong is the deteriorated environment. Remove me from the mess, and I’m just fine. At 66, I have more energy than when I was 30,” he adds. “And I will remain that way as long as I am away from modern culture.” 

To ensure that he and others like him have safe places to live, work, and rebuild their health, Gary founded the Smart Shelter Network in 1996, and later the Land Steward Program. 

Ruth Davis, shown here with Gary, is another electrosenstive who has been healed by the land and is part of the Land Steward Program. This Toyota Chinook is her home on wheels. Read Ruth's story here:

Ruth Davis, shown here with Gary, is another electrosenstive who has been healed by the land and is now part of the Land Steward Program. This modified Toyota Chinook RV is her home on wheels. Visit Ruth’s website for details on her story:

Gary’s volunteer land stewards—people who have all been poisoned in some way by modern society—collectively manage and protect (with no cost to landowners or government) a huge swath of wild land in the Tabeguache Corridor. The corridor is a triangle of 10,000 square miles of land bounded by Telluride and Aspen, Colorado, and by Moab, Utah. The area encompasses the 800-year-old lands of the nomadic Tabeguache Ute Indians. 

In exchange, Gary and his land stewards are able to rebuild their own health and live in safety, far from the toxin of electro-pollution. 

“If the land can heal those with environmental illness, then those with E.I. should also heal the land.”

Gary’s land stewards remove invasive weeds with the use of hand-tools that Gary has created for the task. And they monitor and restore the land in other ways as well. 

“The wild lands are in deplorable shape from cattle overgrazing, motorized vehicle recreation, camper trash, weeds, and drug labs,” Gary explains. “I decided that if the land can heal those with environmental illness, then those with EI should also heal the land.” 

Tabeguache Area (Source: US Forest Service)

Tabeguache Area (Source: US Forest Service)

Gary is also deeply concerned about the thirty percent die-off of Colorado forests due to cell phone radiation and power-line EMF—a pattern he says is replicated in Holland, South Africa, and elsewhere around the world. 

“The killer,” says Gary, “is our myopic, self-centered obsession with instant communication. This is the disease of the wireless age.” 

Gary likens our cultural love affair with wireless technologies to alcoholism, drug dependency, or any other form of addiction. 

“Tell a cell phone user they are addicted, that it’s bad for their health, that there are 9,000 professional medical studies that prove it, and not to bring their phones into your presence, or grab the bottle of wine in a paper sack out of the grips of a wino in the park—the results are identical,” Gary remarks. “Anger, denial, venom, refusal, resistance to fact—all at the same time the patient continues to plummet.” 

Gary knows the terrain of addiction all too well. He is a recovering alcoholic, who has been clean and sober for 26 years. 

Juniper Tree at Black Canyon at Gunnison National Monument, Colorado (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Juniper Tree at Black Canyon at Gunnison National Monument, Colorado (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“The mechanism and symptoms of addiction are identical in wireless communication dependency and terminal alcoholism,” Gary explains. “My own alcoholism recovery has given me the understanding about why information [on risks of wireless radiation] is of no use to the cell phone crowd.” 

But there is one important difference between substance abusers and cell phone addicts. 

“The drugs and alcohol are at least confined to the body of the addict,” Gary points out. “When the iPhone maniac logs on, everyone within a city block starts absorbing the radiation. And the texting addiction is constant. That phone is never off, none of them.” 

These days, Gary is parked in the desert outside Moab, Utah, in his 86-square-foot “Micro Habitat”—a converted 1972 Nomad trailer that he has retrofitted with a water catchment roof, passive solar design, a high-efficiency propane stove, extra insulation, and even a sound recording studio. His exposure to electro-pollution is limited to his weekly trip into Moab (what he terms “the bowels of digital radiation hell”) for gas, propane, food, and a quick internet connection. 

In summers, when Gary is travelling great distances through the Tabeguache area, he lives in his even smaller “Chariot”—a mere 24 square feet, which he converted from an abandoned farmyard trash-hauling trailer. 

A believer in minimalist living, Gary spend his winters in his 86-square-foot "Micro Habitat" (top right) . For his summer travels throughout the Tabeguache area, he lives in his 24-square foot "Chariot" (bottom left).

A believer in minimalist living, Gary spends his winters in his 86-square-foot “Micro Habitat” (top right) . For his summer travels throughout the Tabeguache area, he lives in his 24-square foot “Chariot” (bottom left).

As far as Gary is concerned, a minimalist lifestyle is the only real solution to problems both personal and planetary. 

“The best thing any of us can do for the environment, health, peace, and the economy is to live in smaller spaces,” he tells me. “When we reduce our domicile to less than 100 square feet per person, magic happens in terms of energy efficiency, comfort, function, and most of all junk accumulation.” 

The planet is alive—and pissed!

For Gary, electrosensitivity and chemical sensitivity are neither an accident nor an anathema. Rather, he says, they are a gift and a call to arms. 

“The planet is indeed alive,” Gary remarks. “And it is now pissed. It warned us fifty years ago to stop the abuse. Our greed wouldn’t listen. So it devised a scenario where we would. And I certainly am.” 

If anyone had told Gary Duncan ten years ago that he would be fleeing to the wild lands to live and thrive, he wouldn’t have believed them. 

“Back then,” says Gary, “I would have deemed the life I now live to be unfeasible and impossible. But it works and I love it. Bunnies know all of this. That’s why they live in holes and stay out of Moab.”

© Kim Goldberg 2014. All rights reserved.

(Gary Duncan’s story will be included in Kim Goldberg’s forthcoming book REFUGIUM: Wi-Fi Exiles and the Coming Electroplague. Read more people’s stories here.)

14 thoughts on “Gary Duncan: Healed by the Land

  1. Frank Lee

    Great story, but it does NOT ADDRESS the complete collapse of Earth’s natural biological systems. Just because a few scattered individuals can find temporary sanctuary, it fails to look at the actual problem for what it is.

    EM radiations from HAARP systems, GWEN towers, military radar and surveillances, cellular phone tower systems, wi-fi mesh networks, a hopelessly flawed electrical grid design, and geoengineering (chemtrailing) is decimating the entire environment. It is patently insane to suggest finding sanctuary is the answer to these EM radiation issues. There needs to be a massive revolution and massive slaughter of the purveyors of this trash. A huge wake up call is coming to a theater near you… Sweet dreams.

    1. Kim Goldberg Post author

      Frank: Please improve your reading skills. No one here on my website has suggested that the global solution to the toxin of electro-pollution is for a few individuals to find sanctuary here and there. However, the creation of personal and collective sanctuaries is obviously PART OF the bigger solution. Every person who heals and rehabilitates herself/himself in this way is one less person contributing to the electro-pollution that is poised to wreak global ecological havoc. And many of these people, once healed (or even before they have healed), have become the strongest activists, organizers and lobbyists against wireless radiation and other forms of electro-pollution.

      1. gary duncan

        gary here…franks premises is correct…what he misses (no space for it in the story, though there has been plenty in the past 20 years of this work) is that revolution as we know it is not the answer…many want to simply erase the idiots…the result, unfortunately is anarchy…the primary flaw of Ed Abbey…also a Moabite. What happens in the anarchistic vacuum is the knuckle draggers with guns rule. Instead, we have here devised and have been implementing The Systems of Trancendant Governance…which were the aftermath following Bush The Twoth’ Iraq invasion against the vast majority backdrop of global sanity. What this does is instead of trying to destroy what is broken, we invent what replaces it, develop and hone it as we enact and expand it parallel to the existing and increasingly corrupt government/corporate heresy. This is already working. When the system…for instance Land Management…is perfected, we start escalating the solution and paring back the defunt. This is already working, is too diverse to stop and prevents the anarchistic collapse which ends in even worse than we are already in.

        Frank is right, though…we are frying the world…and will not do anything of significance hiding under rocks. But unless you have a rock to hide under, you’re not going to stop the frying of the world. Tune in again soon for what the solution to this dilemma is…The Mustang Ranch Bordello…professing dictums such as Autonomic Cannibalism in which we already have inept corporate executives incarcerated and starving…until they learn where those fingers went. Anyone will eat anything if you make them hungry enough. Little trip to Vietnam taught a few of us that…to find out how to stop this idiocy, go study the lives of those who already did.

        Frank’s right, but his myopia and lack of versing in the history of revolution and war render him useless. Don’t think for a minute what you’ve read here is all that’s going on in Moab.

        Gary Duncan…exec director…Smart Shelter Network…author: Mustang Ranch Bordello.

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  3. Candie Magill

    The ramifications of recognizing electromagnetic sensitivity is astronomical and certainly nothing that our country is willing to take a look at. EMS is where MCS was in the 60’s. However, unlike MCS—EMS is a more serious issue when it comes to government and private sector revenue. Now that all entities are addicted to technology as well as the revenue it brings in…nobody is going to pioneer any effort to scale back on technology or to make EMS a part of the ADA. Anyplace can provide temporary recovery provided you have minimal to non-existent exposure. However-healing is another story entirely. Healing does not exist. Not real healing. There are multiple pockets throughout the US where one can “hide under a rock” just like what Gary has that worked for him. However, while your body can return to a baseline–once exposed–you are right back where you were. Once afflicted with EMS you can not return to main stream society living where you once lived, doing the job you once did and “enjoying” the technology you once did. You have to stay under your rock. I salute Gary in his efforts to not only draw attention to the seriousness of the situation within our culture but also to try and point others in the right direction. There is no desire of those promoting one world government to scale back on the smart grid. As each region goes up onto the smart grid, living becomes more and more dangerous. Go find a rock to hide under because it is just a matter of time before you are going to need it.
    @ Gary–Thank you for trying to help others. I’d love to hear from you.

  4. Paul Vonharnish


    My actual name is Paul Vonharnish, and Frank Lee is a name I use for theatrical effect… The reader comments are correct in that revolution tends to breed regeneration of the same process. We get a new and different set of actors, and a new and improved set of idiot/fools.

    The reason for this is quite simple: You’ve all been mentally manipulated into thinking knuckle dragging thugs are a normalized human condition. They are not. Knuckle dragging thugs are part of a defective social process that allows them to even exist. Society can rid itself of storm troopers, black boots, and army zombies, by quickly eliminating them before they reach the age of twelve. Get rid of the bastard idiots, and clean up your genetic pool. When you constantly breed for big stupid knuckle dragging lugs, that’s the only genetic stock you will eventually be confronted with. Breeding is hardly rocket science.

    Thugs and bullies prevail in your societies, because they’ve been praised as being a necessary part of the social norm. Look at any football game or competitive sports program. You pay knuckle draggers millions of dollars to fetch a ball or throw one. Hello? You heavily finance knuckle draggers as mercenaries for banking interests. Then you go broke on some war, or maybe get invaded by some idiot child, because you happen to be wealthy. You elect knuckle draggers to lead whole nations. WTF? You praise clever actors, mercenary thugs, and overgrown idiot children, as if they’re gods. That’s why they prevail. Why allow these jerks to even exist?

    Another common fallacy: “Anarchy can’t possibly work”. O’righty then. How has stratification of your societies worked out? Caste systems? Any winners living in the gutters of Bangladesh? Democracy????? Are you kidding me? Have you experienced ANY long term common freedoms thriving under hierarchal rule? Probably not, eh? 10,000 years of allowing social hierarchy to destroy any hope of social culture seems rather redundant.

    If you REFUSE to allow thugs and authority figures to exist in your social climate, just about every economic and social issue ceases to exist. When any human individual proposes to have authority over you, get out a good solid crowbar and exercise your personal sovereignty. Pretty soon even dumb shits will admit they were wrong to intimidate you.

    Want a peaceful Planet? Completely reject the social programming that has destroyed your humanity. Authority figures must be rejected. They are actors. Pull the plug and drop the curtain on this failed paradigm. When the political shithouse stinks as bad as this, you could hardly do worse with anarchy.

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