Add mixed messages to your site

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ordinary People Making a Difference: Hands Across the Sands, Green Energy Congress,

Lately it seems like people have been busier than ever trying to address global warming, peak oil, fossil fuels, and the need to transition to a greener economy. The oil spill in the gulf has killed a lot of fish and fowl. Maybe we needed to see that to wake up? As Americans?  Whatever it takes, people...

As for myself, I have been busy of late with various green activities. I participated in "Hands Across the Sands" last Saturday to protest offshore drilling, attended the Clean Energy Congress in Tallahassee on Monday and Tuesday, calling on the Fl. legislature to hold a special session on renewable energy this summer, and  I attended a Transition Town meeting in Orlando today. All of this "greenwork" has got me thinking about oh so many things. And it has given me hope.

As an educator I cannot help but ask myself how I can contribute to the dissemination of knowledge about how to live more efficiently, more sustainably, how to prepare for a post-peak oil future, and how to turn this planet into something the seventh generation can use.  Fortunately I am far from alone. Many people are asking themselves the same question.

I have been reading a number of books on green energy, climate change, sustainability, community farming, etc (see images) and several facts really stood out for me:

The first one concerns public perception of the problem. According to an article in the Worldwatch Institute book, "2010 State of the World: Transforming Cultures from Consumerism to Sustainability"):

1. "Seventy percent of Americans already believe that climate change is a problem and 51% view it as a serious problem." (studies performed by Yale and George Mason Universities, p. 154)

So it is not just a bunch of anti-establishment hippies living on the fringe of society who are concerned about the future of the planet (though we need to thank the hippies for making us all more aware of the problem). Most people are now concerned. What's more, most of the world is making serious changes to transition to a greener, more energy-efficient, less-polluted future. Unfortunately, the United States lags behind most of the rest of the world in terms of making changes.

Africa, for example,  is the first region to develop and launch a 10- year Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) program ("2010 State of the World," p. 120)

"Over the last four years, China has apparently reduced its carbon emissions, even while its economy grew 7% annually, using subsidy phaseouts for coal, market pricing for fuels, and new energy conservation policies." ("Eco-Economy,"p. 101)

In 2008, the European Union approved a "package to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 percent, and achieve a  20-percent share for renewables by 2020." ("2010 State of the World," p. xxii)

What about us? What are we doing?

"The U.S. holds less than 5 % of the world's population but produces nearly 25 percent of carbon emissions and has played the role of saboteur by failing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels." ("Oil and the Future of Energy, p. 21)

Its a sad story, people....

But not to worry. While our political and economic leaders may not be doing enough, we as a people are busy! Many Americans are involved in one way or another with envisioning a better future for the planet.

Thousands of people came out to hold "Hands Across the Sands" at beaches and deserts all over the planet in response to the horrendous oil spill in the gulf. With little advance notice or time to organize, a movement took place in which strangers all around the world gathered on beaches and held hands to protest offshore drilling and to call for a move to green energy. On the little corner of New Smyrna Beach where I went we easily had a couple hundred people. It was exhilerating and empowering!

Only a few days later environmentalists, activists, community gardeners, solar power businessmen, and educators from every part of Florida gathered in the state capitol of Tallahassee in the House Chambers for a Clean Energy Congress to discuss and vote on a solution to our current use of fossil fuels and the damage it is causing to the planet and the economy. The congress met for  two days and put forth several important proposals for policies on solar energy, electric cars, a ban on offshore drilling, a 20/20 RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards) for Florida, grants and rebates for alternative grid and fuel systems, and a green energy education policy designed to educate children, university students, businesses, and communities about sustainability and energy efficiency. Like the "Hands across the Sands" event, this event was organized in a short amount of time but 120 delegates showed up and we were productive.

The oil spill in the gulf is a tragedy but it has galvanized activity and inspired people to get busy trying to transition us into a green economy. Keep up the good work, people!!!!

As for me, I have my mother (Michaele Lee Davis) to thank for raising my awareness at an early age about the importance of treading lightly on the earth. As one of the original environmentalists (AKA hippie) my mom had us doing organic gardening, washing our hair in the rain, heating up our water with a solar water heater and buying local when I was just a child of 9.

She taught me to respect animals and plants, not to take up too much space, and to avoid getting caught up in American materialism.  I may not have learned well all the lessons she taught me but I am trying...

Thanks Mom.