SEPTEMBER 27 - KEN HOTOPP
Ian Blair, Program Chair, introduced our speaker for the day - Ken Hotopp. Ken is a Conservation Biologist. His first memories of Rotary were from his Dad who was a Rotarian and a dairy farmer in New York State. He remembers the big fund raiser for his Dad's club was selling Orange Julius. Ken said he also remembers from his childhood the Nuclear War Drills held in his 4th grade class where students huddled together on the floor. This was his first realization that it is possible to destroy everything in the world. On a more positive note we also have the potential to do good and great things.
The Science Board of the EPA says our biggest problem is climate change. We now have more floods, droughts, fires, and freezing and excessively hot weather than ever before. This is largely due to pollution of the air and the ground. We need to stop burning so many fossil fuels and change the way we grow food or there will be bigger disasters for our children. Coastal cities may have to be abandoned because of rising sea levels. Due to ocean acidity there will be less fish and shellfish. We may experience food shortages and governments collasping due to unstable social situations around the world.
Climate change can provide opportunities for us to do great things. People naturally love a challenge. We need to accept the challenge which can bring out the best in us. We have worked on the ozone levels and made progress. Ken compared our situation to a nuclear war where the buttons have already been pushed. Pollution is already in the air. Human beings have never seen such a hot atmosphere. The air has dangerous levels of carbon particles, in fact 390 parts per million.
Then Ken spoke about his experience at a peaceful demonstration called "The Tar Sands Action" in Washington D. C. whose mission was to stop allowing oil companies to tell us what to do. In particular this group was concerned about the strip mining for oil in Alberta, Canada. The oil is not pumped out of the ground. Instead the earth is cooked by steam to bring the oil to the surface. This is very destructive to the earth. It has already messed with Indigenous peoples' rights in Canada polluting rivers and depleting the caribou herd which provide their food source.
Trans Canada Oil wants to build a huge pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast to transport the oil which is mixed with many toxic substances. The oil would be refined in Texas and then sent over seas for heating fuel. This could be the biggest carbon bomb on earth. The protest was directed at the Obama Administration asking that this pipeline idea be stopped. So far the Obama Admistration has not made good on its conservation promises.
Interesting about the demonstration in Washington was that the demonstrators had a police group instruct them on how to demonstrate peacefully. The National Park Police try to have people keep moving so tourists can take pictures of the White House. The police usually form a barricade around the demonstrators, let them demonstrate and then arrest them - older people first (they may need a rest), then women and then the rest of the demonstrators. At this particular event 1,253 people were arrested.
Ken emphsized that there is so much potential in clean energy such as simply adding more insulation to a home.
Because the North East is warmer and wetter, the forest product industry, shell fisheries and agriculture will all suffer.
VISITING ROTARIANS AND GUESTS: Ken Hotopp (Blair)