By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the April – May 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

NY STUDENTS RALLY IN ALBANY FOR A CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY

Young people from around New York state headed to the Capitol at the end of April to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and lead the state toward a clean energy economy.

The Green Umbrella, a network of high school and college students fighting climate change, held a conference in Albany over the weekend of April 27-29. Speakers at Power Shift NY included Bill McKibben, Josh Fox, Sandra Steingraber, and Dominic Frongillo.

On Monday morning, the students gathered on the banks of the Hudson River at Albany’s Corning Preserve and then marched to the Capitol. Along the way, they engaged in some attention-grabbing street theater, including a mock “wedding” between gas companies and politicians.

Green Umbrella students at Power Shift NY in Albany on April 30.
Photo credit: Energy Action Coalition.

Hundreds of college students from more than 25 campuses across New York participated in the march through downtown Albany up to the Capitol. The group delivered a petition to the Governor’s office with more than 20,000 signatures calling for Cuomo to prohibit fracking in the state.

“We’re here in Albany to let Governor Cuomo know loud and clear that if he wants to be a leader for the youth vote and for for environmental communities then he needs to take a stand and ban fracking,” said Laura Smith, a student at Vassar College.

K.C. Alvey, assistant coordinator of TCCPI and a recent graduate of Cornell University, and Reed Steberger, a member of the coalition’s steering committee and Cornell senior, played key roles in organizing the conference and rally. ”Hydrofracking just results in boom and bust economies and this is not the solution we want for New York,” said Alvey. “We want thriving, just, and sustainable communities.”

TCCPI AND COMMUNITY ENERGY JOIN HANDS TO “CATCH THE WIND”

Community Energy and TCCPI announced earlier this month that they will be partnering to promote NYSEG’s “Catch the Wind” clean energy option. Community Energy will make a $25 donation to TCCPI for every TCCPI friend or member who signs up for “Catch the Wind.”

Somerset Wind Farm in Penn. began operation in 2001. Photo credit: Community Energy.

Purchasing wind energy contributes to the growth of the market for renewable energy in New York and directly benefits the environment by reducing the need for fossil-fuel generation in the state.

The sale of wind energy in 2011 at NYSEG and RG&E, subsidiaries of Iberdrola USA, led to the reduction of approximately 51 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That is the equivalent of removing approximately 4,500 passenger vehicles from the road or the carbon sequestered by approximately 4,900 acres of trees. Renewable energy sources also help reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

In 2011, NYSEG customers bought nearly 55 million kilowatt-hours (kwh) of clean, renewable electricity – enough to power nearly 7,000 typical homes for a year – through the “Catch the Wind” program. All of the wind energy purchased by NYSEG on behalf of its customers in 2011 was generated in New York.

NYSEG’s wind energy program began in August 2002. The program is offered in partnership with Community Energy Inc., a leading developer and marketer of renewable energy. NYSEG customers can learn more about the company’s “Catch the Wind” program and sign up as a friend of TCCPI at communityenergyinc.com/tccpi.

ONE LAST THING

One hundred years ago this spring the Titanic went down in the North Atlantic, taking the lives of over 1,500 people. Leaving Southampton on April 10, it set out on its maiden voyage celebrated as one of the most technologically advanced ships built to date. Sixteen watertight compartments and remotely activated doors, among other safety features, made it unsinkable, or so the engineers said. The speed with which the Titanic met its end shocked the world, and the event became an enduring symbol of technological hubris.

This same hubris can be seen in our own time as we plunge forward heedless of the damage industrial society inflicts on the biosphere that supports our very lives. The explosive growth of fossil fuel consumption that made possible such marvels as the Titantic has placed an unprecedented burden on our global climate system, pushing it to the brink of disaster. As Peter Hess writes, both the sinking of the Titanic and the accelerating threat of runaway climate change “are the result of a collision between human over-confidence and the implacable forces of nature.”

If nothing else, the story of the Titanic should warn us that climate change is more than a physical problem to be solved by technology. It is, in Malcolm Bull’s words, ”an ethical problem that necessarily requires moral solutions.” The real question is not so much whether we have the ability to slow down the rate of global warming but whether we have the capacity to expand our moral imagination so that we can grasp the importance of doing so.