Thursday, February 5, 2009

Generations Share Experiences, Hopes for Future At FOCUS Hawaii’s Climate Change Teach-In

UH Environmental Policy undergrad David Aquino addresses group.

Two impressions stand out among many from last night’s teach-in at the University of Hawaii:

• Attendees ranged from the early 20s (if not teens) to the upper 60s (if not 70s);
• The generations spoke with and not at one another.

The local event – undoubtedly the last of many similar gatherings held yesterday across the nation – was built around the webcast “Solutions for the First 100 Days” aimed at enthusing youth to descend on Washington late this month to lobby for dramatic cuts in fossil fuel emissions. (Memo to the teach-in's organizers: Hawaii and Alaska deserve inclusion in your “action map” of the United States.)

The Presidential Climate Action Project developed at the University of Colorado over the past two years lays out an agenda for the Obama Administration’s first 100 days to “put us on a path to stabilizing the climate.” (See webcast’s text for details.)

Once the long video was out of the way, microphones were opened for an exchange of views, questions and suggestions between the panel and the audience of about 50. The older generation spoke first, since most of us have learned one place or another along the way that “the only failure is not to participate.” But eventually all age groups spoke up, and the commitment to address global change was ubiquitous.

Failure or Foundation?

We thought members the older generation were a little hard on themselves for allegedly having failed to turn the nation around with their ecological efforts decades ago. Early efforts set the right tone; the first Earth Day was held in 1970. Jimmy Carter urged the nation to lower thermostats and install solar panels, as he did on the White House roof.

It was the Ronald Reagan crowd that removed those panels, slashed federal renewable energy budgets and set the energy conservation movement back at least two decades. The lesson is clear: What happens at the top is critical, so let’s be sure the Obama Administration sets the tone for the next generation.

We made a plug for ocean thermal energy conversion, of course, and it was good to hear others mention OTEC along with wind, solar and biomass among Hawaii’s abundant renewable energy resources.

The Blue Planet Foundation – with a mission “to end the use of carbon-based fuels” and start the effort in Hawaii – was present with an offer to help one or more deserving young people travel to Washington for the national gathering in late February.

UH clean energy activists invited the audience to two campus events next week – the 2nd annual B-Day Bash of the student-led Sustainable Saunders group, and Time magazine’s “Greenest CEO” Ray Anderson’s appearance at the Campus Center. (Contact Sustainable Sanders; these events aren’t on the website’s calendar today.)

If the energy in the room last night is efficiently put to work by the organizations in attendance -- Sustainable Saunders, Blue Planet Foundation, Interfaith Power and Light and others – the teach-in will have a lasting effect. But let’s hope for a bigger turnout next time. As the seminar leader said:

“The only failure is
not to participate.”


Anonymous said...

Mahalo Doug for your wonderful write up of this event! This year's event was primarily organized by Jane Schoonmaker (SOEST), Shanah Trevenna (Sustainable Saunders/HUB), and myself (Environmental Law Program, UH Law School), but as I said at the event "it takes a village" and many people contributed their share to create a focused conversation. Last year's event was part of the "Focus the Nation" movement; this year's event was affiliated with the "National Teach In on Climate Change" - both groups are working on energizing our youth to take action in DC with the Power Shift March. Our effort with "Focus Hawaii" is to stay plugged in to these national events while staying grounded in the issues that are unique to our island home. Stay tuned for further events - and, yes, next time it would be great to include ever more voices -- as this discussion becomes more urgent, we need more help -- from everyone!
Mahalo - Denise

Doug Carlson said...

It was a great event, Denise. Thanks for stopping by Hawaii Energy Options, and good luck with your many upcoming activities.