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Sunday, December 13, 2009

UNO College Democrats, Environmental Club push for more sustainability on campus

UNO student organizations are taking preliminary steps to promote the next biggest issue surfacing in the United States after health care – clean energy.

Campus organizations are teaming up with Repower America, a campaign launched by the Alliance for Climate Protection, to "galvanize the American public around a bold, new clean energy plan and a revitalized national energy infrastructure."

Scott and Eric Williams, community organizers for the campaign, have paired with the UNO College Democrats and the Environmental Club to organize seminars and movie showings relative to clean energy and sustainability efforts.

The Environmental Club, for example, is co-hosting a free movie showing of "Prairie Wind: Nebraska's Wind Energy Harvest" on Dec. 15 from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m at the College of Public Affairs and Community Service's Collaborating Commons. The documentary explores how local communities could benefit from Nebraska harnessing wind energy, how farmers and ranchers could use wind energy in their operations and how landowners could reap economic benefits from wind structures.

(Flier courtesy: Scott Williams/Repower America)

Following the documentary is a panel discussion featuring Perry Stoner, the documentary's producer; Neb. Sen. Ken Haar, District 21; Robert Byrnes, President of the Nebraska Renewable Energy Association; and Paul Vonderfecht, Omaha small-business owner, Energy Smart Company.

Ranked sixth in the nation for wind-energy potential, Nebraska has the ability to save native households $800 a year by 2030 with its wind-energy producing capabilities and biomass resources, according to Repower America's Web site.

Scott Williams said taking advantage of Nebraska's wind-energy potential is one step to keeping carbon dioxide emissions under wraps and Earth's rapid change under control.

"The wind is basically right here in the middle of the country," Williams said. "If we took advantage of the wind energy here...and they only operated at 20 percent of their operating capacity...we would have 40 times the electricity produced in the country today."

Andrew Burdic, vice president of UNO’s Environmental Club, said recycling habits and adapting to a sustainable lifestyle isn’t enough.

"It's definitely a good thing to do," Burdic said. "I personally feel that we haven't really done enough as a city."

The College Democrats held similar events in November with a clean energy lecture by Scott Williams and a showing of the documentary “The 11th Hour,” narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Some members of the organization also promoted clean energy in 30-second video clips used for the Repower America Wall. The online video wall features the voices of singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow and Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle. It also includes statements from companies such as Nike and Starbucks.

In his lecture, Williams said some people believe volcanoes are to blame for the 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide residing in the atmosphere while others believe this is far from the truth.

“Every year, humanity releases more than 100 times what volcanoes do every single year,” Williams said. “Hundreds of millions of years ago, volcanoes created our atmosphere and they allowed the planet to warm up to the point where life could exist.”

Regardless, Williams said polar bears will go extinct in our lifetime and more than half of Florida will be underwater.

“Fortunately, the humans probably won’t go extinct hopefully, but it’s going to be really difficult to fit off the ocean,” Williams said.

Kara Kingsley, College Democrats president, said the changing environment cannot be ignored.

The College Democrats will continue to invite the Williams brothers to future meetings to present new materials and shed light on environmental changes.

“We want to inform other students about important issues that are happening right now,” Kingsley said. “A lot of people in our group are passionate about this issue and we’re going to do our best to educate and get the word out about it.”

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