Rosy-cheeked from working outdoors, boots crusted with mud, dark eyes shining with zeal, Michael Docter relaxed for a rare moment in his family's Kensington living room on a recent chilly Sunday.
He had returned from one of his special projects: weatherizing homes for needy, elderly residents of Montgomery County. Outside, a cart full of fluffy insulation stood attached to the battered family Buick that young Docter had plastered with "No Nuke" bumper stickers.
Let sociologists denounce today's teen-agers for descending into the decade's disco inferno. There is Michael Docter, a "cub scout" of the counterculture with a merit badge in consciousness raising, according to admirers.
"They're not building any more earths," said the 17-year-old founder of the Montgomery County Students Ecology Coalition. "And this one's in terrible shape."
Friends describe the Walter Johnson High School senior as a burst of energy -- solar energy that is -- and say he always has several projects going at the same time.
Although Docter said he isn't interested in politics beyond defending the environment against what he sees as the profit-oriented interests of the multinational corporations, he joined Sen. Edward Kennedy's presidential campaign and missed school this week to work in the New Hampshire primary.
But there's a family precedent for his interest in politics.
For three terms his father, Charles, was the Doctor in the Maryland House of Delegates. The former state representative, who was tagged a liberal idealist by his fellow legislators, said he has nothing to do with his son's activities.
"He makes me look conservative," said Docter with a laugh. He watched admiringly as his son hauled insulation scraps left from the day's winterizing work into the garage.
Docter was among the youngest organizers of the massive antinuclear rally held in Washington last May. The rally featured movement notables including Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Jerry Brown and Ralph Nader.
"I feel nuclear power in its present state is an unacceptable form of energy. But people aren't aware that there are alternative energy sources like solar and wind," said Doctor.
Making people aware of environmental alternatives is one of Docter's specialties.
This past fall Docter mobilized his fellow students into lobbying for the implementation of a frequently postponed bottle deposit law in Montgomery County.
His effort culminated in their depositing 400 pounds of bottles and petitions thick with signatures on the County Council table at a public hearing. Then Docter gave a pithy speech urging the council not to delay again.
Although the council again delayed the bill, it was not for as long as the industry had wanted.
"I think the council realized they'd been sold a bill of goods," said Docter.
The bill is now set to become effective in October. By then Docter will be a college freshman somewhere. Oregon, he hopes. He plans to major in environmental studies. But that's next year. Now he's worried about the proposed state-wide bottle bill being considered in Annapolis.
Recalling Docter's presentation to the County Council, Vice President Ruth Spector said, "He was well-prepared and well-documented and did much better than many of the adults."
Spector said she recommended to members of a legislative committee studying a statewide deposit law that they talk with Docter.
Docter briskly shut his family's garage door and hurried inside as it began to rain. He was concerned, he said, about impoverished people whose houses were not built to be energy-efficient.
"I was insulating our own house this summer and I realized how easy this was to do and how much money people could save by saving energy," he said.
So he summoned the Montgomery County Citizens Energy Alliance to action. Then he contacted local businesses for contributions of money and materials.
For 10 Sundays Docter and his group devoted themselves to caulking, weatherstripping and insulating the needy against winter winds.
"When I get an idea to do something, I accelerate," Docter said, admitting that he gets frustrated by bureaucracy and by the apathy of his fellow students.
"People get the feeling that big business and special interests run everything and you can't do anything about it. But you can beat them. It takes a lot of work. They're out to make money," said Docter.
Although Docter was barely old enough to read when Berkeley campuses began blooming with the beginnings of the Woodstock Nation, older activists see young Docter as bearing aloft the antiestablishment banner for a new generation.
"He's really unusual. It's not trendy now to get behind social issues and he really does a lot to raise the consciousness of the community," said Richard Kozlow.
Kozlow, 31, is in charge of volunteers at the Bethesda Community Co-op, an alternative store that is a bastion of Sixties survivors and natural food fans in downtown Bethesda.
Here young Docter spends an afternoon a week filling barrels with organic brown rice and wrapping cheeses.
Docter said that at one time he was a troublemaker who like to go out and "get rowdy."
"Then I realized what a waste that was," he said, self-consciously twisting a cuff on his flannel shirt.
He became interested in the school's environmental club, which wasn't active at the time, Docter recalls.
"But I figured joining it and doing nothing was better than not joining it and doing nothing," said Docter.
The club started doing plenty after Docter joined, however, beginning with a Rock Creek Clean-Up he organized last May. He is currently the club co-president along with Pam Stallsmith.
Docter is now writing to environmental groups in California, asking for information on his next project. He would not divulge it in detail, but revealed he will be taking on local chemical industries.
Unfortunately, Docter acknowledges, most other students don't share his environmental enthusiasm.
"The hardest thing," he sighs, "is getting people off their rears to help.I hope college will be different."