Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wisconsin Inconvenient Truth Event

by: Harry Waisbren

I am quite proud that I have been able to volunteer for next week’s presentation of “Wisconsin’s Inconvenient Truth”. Precisely, it will be next Wednesday, April 16th from 5:00-6:30 PM in the basement of Gordon commons, room A1, and I am certain that it will be a harrowing yet hopeful discussion over what Wisconsin’s environmental future will hold if we do not take action to prevent global warming.

This is because the presentation will not only focus on how bad it has already gotten, but also on how much potential we have to fix the problems as well. The speaker, Ryan Schryver, is quite the expert too, as he is a clean energy advocate for Clean Wisconsin who was trained by former Vice President Al Gore and several of the nation’s leading scientists to give this presentation as part of the Climate Project.

When I interviewed Ryan for a Badger Herald article I wrote about this event, I was startled to learn about the degree of effects from global warming that we are feeling right now. Wisconsin’s weather patterns have already changed egregiously, as evidenced by the fact that spring now comes three weeks earlier than it has historically. Even more disconcerting was the description he gave over the increasing patterns of extreme weather that we have been experiencing unabashedly this winter.

“It’s somewhat of a paradox, in that we can expect to see more prolonged and frequent droughts, but at the same time when we get storms we can expect them to be more intense,” explained Ryan. “And so this winter, the weather patterns were very much in line with what we expect to see as a result from global warming, where we have nice weather in between major snow storms.”

Ryan also explained how this state of affairs brought particularly caustic results last August, when “Gov. Doyle declared a state wide emergency because of the widespread drought that was ravishing our farmland, and less than one week later a federal disaster area was declared in almost 10 counties because there had been almost 19 inches of rain, and there was massive flooding.”

Considering the city of Madison’s pathetic response to the increased snow this past winter, I am very concerned over the fruits such extreme and unpredictable weather patterns will bear. However, despite all of this, Ryan was one of the most optimistic environmentalists that I have ever met in regards to our capacity to tackle this immense challenge.

“It’s affecting everyone, and that’s why we’re seeing this overwhelming support to do something,” Ryan argued. He emphasized that these drastic changes have already led to a coalition of “strange bedfellows, where you have bear hunters from Northern Wisconsin walking hand in hand with Birkenstock wearing hippies.”

This is why Ryan’s presentation will also look at Wisconsin’s energy use, specifically how our own lives are contributing to the problem. This will then lead into a discussion over what we can do to fix some of the problems.

He particularly stressed the importance of preventing a new Alliant coal plant’s construction, explaining that it would make it almost impossible to reverse many of the trends we have been seeing. Fortunately, activists like Ryan have already been working to foster a grassroots response to prevent this, but they certainly need all the help they can get to ensure success for such an integral issue.

Quite fortunately, he is also confident that our state leadership is on the right track as well. He cited a global warming task force created by Gov. Doyle, describing it as a “large coalition of people sitting down who are, right now, in the process of figuring out how we get these major reductions that we need.” Despite the frightening images of “drowning polar bears” and “penguins doing back flips”, Ryan believes that our growing Wisconsin coalition of grass roots activists and progressive state politicians really can get a handle on our environment once again.

“I think that there is a general message of hope out there,” emphasized Ryan. “I wouldn’t get up and do the job that I do as a professional environmentalist every morning if I didn’t think we could solve this problem. And we are not talking about people going back and living in caves or anything like that. We are talking about a better world. We’re talking about a world where we have jobs that are based on clean energy, we’re talking about a world with cleaner air in general, and we’re talking about a world where we don’t have to worry about these extreme weather patterns.”

I am excited to have this talk next Wednesday and to learn how I (and hopefully other Badger Herald and Mad Progress readers) can do more to contribute to a sustainable environmental future in Wisconsin. This message of hope wrapped in a call to action could not be over a more integral issue, and it certainly could not come at a more integral time.

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