Middlebury

After fourth hottest year on record, activists build strategies for the new climate movement

January 10, 2005

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-In its March 18, 2004, edition, The Economist magazine asked: "Could the next grassroots revolution in America be over climate change?"  National leaders and grassroots organizers concerned with the climate crisis, including Executive Director of Greenpeace U.S.A. John Passacantando and "End of Nature" author Bill McKibben, hope to answer this question with a resounding "yes" when they meet Jan. 25-27 at a conference at Middlebury College titled "What Works?  New Strategies for a Melting Planet." 

The kick-off lecture on Jan. 25 is free and open to the public.  The remainder of the conference is closed to the public and to additional participants, with the exception of a limited number of journalists, since attendance has reached full capacity.  More information about the event, including a schedule, is available on the conference Web site at http://www.whatworks-climate.org/.  Conference proceedings will be available online in mid-February.

Conference participants will also include Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, co-authors of "The Death of Environmentalism," a controversial essay released last year at the October meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association that has sparked a big debate among environmentalists at every level, according to the Jan. 3 edition of The Nation.  The text of the essay is available at http://www.thebreakthrough.org/.

McKibben, who helped design the event at Middlebury, said, "Many people in the environmental community in the United States are discouraged by our country's failure to adopt a national policy designed to confront the climate crisis.  Now it's time to be practical.  We're asking, 'What additional progress can we make using grassroots methods that are already being used effectively?'"  For three days, Jan. 24-26, McKibben will contribute a daily update of the event to the online environmental publication Grist Magazine at www.grist.org

National leaders and grassroots organizers of the climate movement from the nonprofit, business, government and university sectors will participate, sharing their own ideas and efforts.  These individuals include:

  John Passacantando, Executive director of Greenpeace U.S.A. and founder of Ozone Action

  Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature" and "Enough," and Scholar in Residence in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College

  Michael Shellenberger, Executive director of the Breakthrough Institute and co-author of the essay "The Death of Environmentalism"

  Ted Nordhaus, Co-founder and director of Strategic Values Science Project; and co-author of the essay "The Death of Environmentalism"

  Judith Helfand and Daniel Gold, Co-directors and co-producers of documentary film "Blue Vinyl" and the forthcoming "Melting Planet: A Toxic Comedy about Global Warming."  Helfand and Gold will film the Middlebury conference for use in "Melting Planet." 

  David Merrill, Founder and executive director of the National Global Warming Coalition

  Susi Moser, Research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Institute for the Study of Society and Environment

  Billy Parish, Founder and executive director of The Climate Campaign and Energy Action

  Tom Stokes, Director of The Climate Crisis Coalition

  Joel Makower, Founder and editor of GreenBiz and ClimateBiz

  More participants are listed on the conference Web site at: http://www.whatworks-climate.org/.

According to a Dec. 16 Associated Press story which appeared in the Burlington Free Press, a report released by a United Nations weather agency on Dec. 15 stated that the year 2004 was the fourth hottest on record.  The agency, the World Meteorological Organization, said the statistic coincides with a trend-the 10 hottest years ever have all occurred since the 1990s.  The story also stated that new data provided by U.N. environmental officials confirmed that "The current year was also the most expensive for the insurance industry in coping worldwide with hurricanes, typhoons and other weather-related natural disasters."

Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Economics Jonathan Isham, who organized the Middlebury event, said, "Averting this global crisis will require a heroic effort.  Conference participants will explore how social movements of the past, such as the one led by civil rights leader Dr. King, offer lessons for today.  Right now, inspiring local action is taking place across the country, particularly among college students, religious leaders, and climate-friendly businesses.  Events at the conference will encourage leaders to share the good news about their grassroots efforts, and then plan how the climate movement can expand its political base." 

The conference will kick-off on Tuesday, Jan. 25, with a keynote lecture titled "Global Warming and the Meaning of Life," by Eban Goodstein, founder and director of the Oregon-based Green House Network, a nonprofit organization that, according to its Web site, is committed to creating the grassroots movement needed to stop global warming.  The talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Room 216 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125).

The conference will feature interactive sessions designed to help all conference participants develop and refine strategies that will contribute to the new climate movement, including a proposed new campaign of civil disobedience.  Break-out discussions will focus on a range of new social movement strategies.

Throughout the events, college students who are shaping the new climate movement will share their ideas and discuss their own efforts to address climate change.  For example, 25 Middlebury College students will present service-learning projects developed in collaboration with environmental organizations and climate-friendly businesses, including Ben and Jerry's, Clean Air-Cool Planet, Energy Action, Environmental Defense, The Green House Network, and the Middlebury Area Global Warming Action Coalition. 

The students are completing these projects and helping to organize the conference as part of their work for the course "Building the New Climate Movement," which Isham is teaching during Winter Term-a one-month semester that takes place in January when students take one course.  One student project is the development of a new prize to be presented annually by the members of the Green House Network to an outspoken climate-crisis naysayer.  The establishment of the new prize, which was inspired by the new Michael Crichton novel, "State of Fear," will be announced officially at the conference on Wednesday, Jan. 26.   

The kick-off lecture on Jan. 25 is free and open to the public.  The remainder of the conference is closed to the public and to additional participants, with the exception of a limited number of journalists, since attendance has reached full capacity.  More information about the event, including a schedule, is available on the conference Web site at http://www.whatworks-climate.org/

To follow is an events calendar listing:

Tuesday, Jan. 25

7:30-9 p.m.

"Global Warming and the Meaning of Life," a lecture by Eban Goodstein, founder and director of the Green House Network, and chair of the Lewis and Clark College Environmental Studies Program.  This lecture is the kick-off event for a conference at Middlebury College titled "What Works?  New Strategies for a Melting Planet." 

Free

Room 216, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)

For more information, contact Diane Munroe, Middlebury College environmental teaching associate, at dmunroe@middlebury.edu or 802-443-5925.

The kick-off lecture on Jan. 25 is free and open to the public.  The remainder of the conference is closed to the public and to additional participants, with the exception of a limited number of journalists, since attendance has reached full capacity.  More information about the event is available on the conference Web site at http://www.whatworks-climate.org/

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