July 10, 2008

Why Rothbury Matters (hint: read to the end!)

Elephant at Rothbury!

While I have already mentioned that while Rothbury was at times about the mindless life instead of the mindful life, the Think Tank Panels illustrate that the Mindful life will win out in the end.

On Saturday July 5th, I attended a panel entitled How Do We Motivate the Masses to be Part of the Energy Revolution? & Focus on the Festival: Motivating Action at Rothbury. I promised myself I would attend this particular panel at all costs (which turned out to be missing MMW’s set) because of the panelists, David Gershon, author of Low Carbon Diet, Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, a professor from Yale and an opinion and behavior change expert, student activist Julianna Williams, Michael Kang, of the String Cheese Incident and Our Future Now, Lana Pollack, a seasoned activist and self described recovering politician, and Jeffree Lerner and Hunter Brown of Sound Tribe Sector Nine. (I will be addressing Pollack and Williams comments in a later post).

The take home message of the panel focused on personal responsibility. As Dr. Leiserowitz explained, Americans must shoulder a large percentage of energy responsibility, since we make up 5% of the worlds population, yet produce 30% of the world’s emissions. Gershon elaborated, explaining that 50% of your personal carbon footprint was a direct result of lifestyle, and thus the right changes can have a major impact on your carbon footprint (i.e. the no matter what I do China will undo it excuse just does not jibe with the numbers).

The moderator then chimed in to congratulate the festivals attendees, as 2/3 of the tickets sold for Rothbury were optional green tickets that included a $3 charge to offset carbon emissions (Mindful 1, Mindless 0).

Kang talked about the art installations Our Future Now brought to the festival. Made from found and recycled objects, the installations “aim to tip a mechanism in people’s minds” and function as “creative ways to start conversation”. They were not only beautiful, but did precisely what Kang described, engaging people in dialogue and showcasing the power of activism through art. Dr. Leiserowitz explained that while 7 out of 10 people believe in Global Warming, believe it is a serious problem, and support policy change, only 4% of people say that they talk about global warming regularly with family and friends, and 69% say they rarely or never do. Getting dialogue started is not only important, but vital.

A fisheye view of one of Our Future Now‘s Temple Art Installation.

Lerner and Brown drove the issue of personal responsibility home by talking about how as musicians constantly on tour, they are not exactly emission-less, crossing the continent in planes and buses. However, that has only made them more driven “to do the right thing”, offsetting their “imprint” through planting trees, and donating $1 from every ticket they sell to various local non-profits, saying “We’re not environmentalists or scientists, but we have a responsibility, and we take that seriously.” Dr. Leiserowitz rounded out the discussion by adding that the musicians and panelists had a responsibility to be role models, and but that everyone can be a role model, saying that if your friends and neighbors see you bike to work everyday, maybe it will get them thinking, hey, I can and should do that too.

The floor opened for questions, after four or five the moderator thanked everyone for coming, and then something happened.

A young man in the back had been anxiously raising his hand to speak, but had not been able to ask a question. Instead he came forward, and nervously cleared his throat before addressing the panel. He thanked them and said that their passion was incredibly apparent and inspiring. He said he was 18, had just graduated from high school and was on his way to college, and that activism or being an activist had never really occurred to him. He then said he knew he knew now that he wanted to be an activist and thanked the panel again. Everyone in the room felt humbled and awed, and maybe it was also because John Lennon’s Imagine was playing in the background, but I started to get teary. I knew then that Rothbury mattered, and that it had made a difference in one young man’s life, and if you can change one person’s mind you can change the world. Call me eternally optimistic, or naivly idealistic, hey, you may even say I’m a dreamer, but I know I’m not the only one.

Everyone loves an activist! Showing the Green Team some love!

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