A dispatch from Erin McNamara, an AID student leader at SUNY Binghamton:

“We didn’t just land on the moon in …, we set a goal to do it within 9 years, and we did it in eight. It may have cost millions, but we did it. It may not have been popular at the time, but we did it” and the same goes for combating global warming, said Mr. Charles Rosenthberger of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. And he’s right; global warming is not going to stop itself.

On June 17, students from across the country as well as some local New Haven residents spent their Saturday afternoon learning from expert panelists and hosting small group discussions of their own to figure out what they can do to help stop global warming. The conference was held by a New Haven based nonprofit organization called Americans for Informed Democracy (AID). AID is a nonpartisan organization that aims to increase education and awareness on pressing global issues. “Oil dependence and Climate Change” is one of their focus issues for this summer and upcoming fall.

The consensus of Saturday’s expert panel on clean energy and oil dependence was that action needs to be taken at a grass roots level and then work its way up to the top. Each panelist discussed what they are working on at the local community and state level. For instance, Bob Wall, New England Regional Director of “Smart Power” said that Connecticut is the second state to pass a strategy for clean energy. The impetus for this movement began four years ago when concerned citizens and policy makers met to discuss the impacts of urban living on the environment and on public health. They discovered that New Haven was one of the worst areas to live in the country in terms of environmental cleanliness, and because of this, asthma rates were increasing and so was the amount of mercury in acid rain, which can have harmful affects on women and can cause developmental issues in children. So, the group set a target of increasing clean energy use in CT to 20% by 2010 to help combat these health and environmental problems. Other Connecticut campaigns include the “Cool It Competition” for local middle and high school students to monitor the amount of green house gases they produce in a year, and to come up with a solution to reduce their emissions.

The panel also discussed the negative effects of US oil dependence. Professor Bradford Gentry of the Yale School of Forestry said that the US imports over 60% of its oil, half of which comes from unstable countries. The top three sources of US oil are Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. In essence, because of US oil dependence, we are at the mercy of these countries, which we all can observe first hand with gas prices over $3/ gallon. However, there is a lot that can be done to combat this oil dependence. If the US were to invest in clean energy solutions such as windpower, solar energy, and bio-ethanol we would be helping the environment and breaking free of our dependence of these unstable countries. Professor Gentry noted that “there is no silver bullet solution to these problems at any one level- local, national or global”, but rather a solution in hard work, time and commitment by community members and policy makers at every level.

Individuals can start the energy revolution in their own homes by turning off the lights when leaving the room, walking or biking instead of driving, and of course, recycling. Individuals can also use their purchasing power to increase clean energy by choosing eco-friendly cars (such as hybrids), buying recycled products and shopping at stores and buying brands that are committed to green energy. Lastly, citizens can use their political power to help reach the 20% by 2010 goal in Connecticut by voting, writing letters and opinion pieces, and calling to tell their representatives that clean energy is something that they support. Oil is no longer the way to go- it increases our dependence on other countries; it is becoming more and more expensive for the average consumer; and it is causing global warming levels to rise higher than they’ve ever been before in the history of the world. This is not a world that we want to leave for our children and grandchildren, especially when we know there is a better solution!

For more information on how you can get involved in the clean energy revolution, you can go to http://www.AIDemocracy.org or call (203) 773-1202.