Local experts ‘focus’ on environmental issues

Faculty, students and experts on environmental issues gathered in the Library Auditorium on Jan. 31 to participate in what was billed as “the largest teach-in in U.S. history.”

More than 1,100 college and university campuses in all 50 states were slated to participate in learning events as part of Focus the Nation, a national series of coordinated teaching events dedicated to discussing solutions to global warming.

The College’s participation in Focus the Nation included the showing of several informational videos on global warming and a panel discussion featuring local experts on energy and natural resource conservation.

Chris Sherring, operations adviser at WorldWater & Power, discussed solar energy solutions, emphasizing his belief that it is a consistent, viable and cost-effective means of generating power.

“If we covered a 10-mile-by-10-mile area with solar panels, we could make the U.S. completely self-sustainable,” Sherring said.

Bill Valocchi, supervising planner for the city of Trenton, said Trenton is looking at ways of re-using existing buildings and purchasing easily-replenished materials as a way of conserving natural resources in construction.

“If we want to be sustainable in our field and if we want to build for the future and basically give the next generation a quality of life that we had or better, we have to understand that we cannot deplete resources faster than we can regenerate them,” Valocchi said.

Ralph Copleman, executive director of Sustainable Lawrence, explained how his company seeks to reuse and recycle existing items and materials for use in everyday products, demonstrating a spray bottle made from a used cola bottle as well as a zip-up pencil case made from old juice packets.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-12th District, phoned in to the discussion from his office in Washington, D.C. Holt, who is also a physicist, said action in Congress on the global warming issue has been relatively slow.

While he praised the passage of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill as a plan for alleviating congested roadways, thereby reducing carbon emissions, he bemoaned Congress’ seeming lack of political resolve on global warming.

“We don’t really see yet the comprehensive, really revolutionary developments that are needed,” Holt said.

Kirby Torrance, field canvass director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, agreed with Holt, but went a step further in identifying the cause of this perceived idleness on the part of Congress.

“The reason that Congress does not yet feel the urgency is that we don’t,” Torrance said.

When asked during a Q-and-A session what young people can do to help reduce global warming, Torrance was quick to respond.

“Eat less meat,” he said, explaining that the fuel costs that go into meat production are high relative to other consumer products.

Freshman open options major Theresa Bucklaew said she found the Focus the Nation event informative.

“It was interesting to see the different changes that I can make in my life to help solve this,” Bucklaew said. “I’ll probably tell my mom to start unplugging the appliances when they aren’t in use.”

The event at the College’s campus was organized by Winnie Fatton, executive assistant at the Municipal Land Use Center at the College, in coordination with the President’s Climate Commitment Committee.