What do a visionary architect, a winemaker, and an activist lawyer have in common? They were all in Savannah this past Saturday to partake in the Savannah Country Day School’s Creative Minds series to discuss sustainability.
This event was off the hook. All of the men who spoke are inspiring, truth-seeking individuals creating positive change in their respective fields.
The first speaker was Robert Berkebile, FAIA, a calm and pleasant man who is a visionary leader in greening the world of design and architecture. Berkebile believes that architects must take a leadership role in creating sustainable communities and restoring the balance of nature. To that end he has devoted much of his time promoting a new design ethic and responsible planning to create a sustainable society.
Next up was Paul Dolan, a Mendocino County winemaker who had turned the giant wine producer, Fetzer, into the largest organic wine producer in the world. He presently owns the Mendocino Wine Company, and is a perfect blend of 4th generation grape grower, northern Cali spirit, and highly successful business man.
And last, but surely not least, was Bobby Kennedy, Jr. This man was laying it down, people. Coming from a lineage of men who were not afraid to challenge the establishment knowing they would probably die because of it (and did), Bobby, Jr. espouses the same kind of courage that his father and uncle did before him. There is much to say about this activist lawyer, but I offer you an interview that John Stoehr from Savannah Now conducted prior to the symposium on Saturday. If you ever have a chance to hear/see Bobby speak, take advantage of it.
Q: Why do so many people, even those with no obvious political interest, deny that global warming is a problem?
A: This is the result of a multi-billion dollar propaganda campaign by the oil industries to deceive the public about global warming by creating and funding dozens of think-tanks in Washington, D.C., by hiring public-relations firms and by investing millions into the political process. They are using the same tactics the tobacco industry used. Seven years ago, tobacco industry CEOs swore under oath that smoking was not affecting health. Now you have people in Congress proclaiming that global warming is a hoax.
Q: How does that affect a person like my dad, a working class guy who doesn’t believe the planet is getting warmer?
A: Last year the National Academy of Sciences did a bibliographic study on every peer-reviewed study about global warming. They found, without exception, that there was agreement that global warming was occurring and that human beings were causing it. At the same time, they did a study of news reports and more than half expressed doubt about the authenticity of the quote-unquote theory. There is a huge disconnect between the reality and the perception advanced by the news media. That doubt is percolated down to talk radio. Thirty percent of Americans get their news from talk radio and 90 percent of that is controlled by the right.
Q: If so much money is involved, where can we begin to fix the problem?
A: In order to save the environment, we have to fix democracy. Get the corporations out of politics … We need to strengthen the FCC to force media to do their job. Airwaves are owned by the public. The media used to be obligated to tell people real news. Now networks are owned by shareholders and the bottom-line demands more viewers. Americans are the best entertained and least informed people on earth. If we had a political system that worked, it would address global warming.
Q: Those objectives seem so insurmountable. What about immediate changes?
A: They are not insurmountable. Changing the FCC and campaign finance reform are doable objectives. But we can increase fuel-efficiency standards … We can also invest in solar and wind, and we can eliminate subsidies to coal and oil industries. We pay billions in direct federal subsidies to the oil industry.
Q: Even if we were able to fix democracy, as you say, how can we convince nations like India and China, with more than a billion people each, to address environmental issues?
A: They don’t want to be polluting either. China right now has tougher fuel standards than we do. We can’t sell our cars there. We should be developing new technologies so we can sell them to China. Hybrid cars and fuel-efficient refrigerators are in demand. I think we have moved away from debate on whether global warming is an issue. It is. Now we are debating what to do. President Bush acknowledge global warming does exist in his State of the Union address, which he hadn’t done before. There are now three environmental bills in Congress waiting for a vote. The question is whether President Bush will sign them.