Global Warming: A Visit to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Global warming is one of the most urgent problems facing mankind today. It is also one of the toughest to address. Not only are there difficult technological and scientific issues surrounding a solution to global warming, there are political ones as well. Especially in the United States, global warming is as much a political problem as an environmental one. The United States government is under tremendous pressure from citizens to find a solution to global warming (a phenomenon the government still officially says is under debate) while at the same time protecting the jobs located in the very factories whose pollution has contributed to the very problem of global warming in the first place. Addressing global warming is a delicate business, and one that will likely dominate much of global discourse in the coming decades as mankind works together to find a solution to this absolutely real threat to our very existence on this planet.
Global warming is also referred to as climate change, and is being brought about by the burning of fossil fuels and chemical air pollution from the forces of production. Global warming threatens to raise the average surface temperature of the earth by one or more degrees in the next few decades unless something is done to stop it and soon (Ausubel, 2005). While this may not seem like much of a rise in temperature, the effects of even a slight rise in surface temperature on the earth can be devastating to life on the surface (Wysham, 2005). And global warming is not some far distant thing that will affect our children and grandchildren but not us. Global warming is happening right now, before our very eyes. The melting polar ice caps, the hole in the ozone layer, and the monster hurricanes of the last few years are all indicative of global warming already in progress (Merta, 2005). If we do not do something right now to stop the escalation of global warming, it may soon be too late to do anything about it.
With these concerns in mind, I paid a visit to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to see what they are doing to combat global warming. Global warming is, after all, largely caused by the production and use of our choice of energy sources, something the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy knows about. I was also interested to see how the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy works, what techniques it uses, and how I might participate in helping them in their work to solve the problem of global warming.
Upon entering the headquarters for the Southern Alliance of Clean Energy, I was struck by the number of environmental posters adorning the walls of their reception area. There was no doubt what this organization cares about. There were also pamphlets displayed on nearly every available surface, ranging in scope of topic from global warming to air pollution to water pollution to deforestation. A young receptionist greeted me as I made my way to her small, functional desk (made, I suspected, from recycled materials). She wanted to know how she could help me and I said I was interested in finding out more information about global warming and what the Southern Alliance of Clean Energy was doing to combat it, as well as how I could help. The receptionist handed me a pamphlet to look over and asked me to have a seat and someone would be with me shortly.
While I waited, I looked over the pamphlet. It was full of some startling facts about global warming. I learned that due to the melting of the polar ice caps, sea levels along the Southeast Coast are rising rapidly, which is a concern for low-lying costal areas. Catastrophic storms, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, are more likely to occur as the global temperature rises (McKibben, 2005). Tropical diseases and heat-related deaths are likely to increase through global warming. Plant and animal species diversity is likely to decrease through global warming (Little). Plus, there is growing concern among scientists that a continued increase in global temperatures will lead to either a new ice age, through the disruption of oceanic currents, or to such extreme heat conditions that a mass extinction of plant and animal life such as has not been seen since before the dawn of the dinosaurs will occur (Ausubel, 2005). Needless to say, after reading this pamphlet, I was even more alarmed by the prospect of global warming than when I first entered the building.
After about 5 minutes, a nice young woman named Rebecca came out to greet me. She said she was the volunteer coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Rebecca invited me to come back to her office with her. Before I could really explain everything I hoped to learn from my visit, she handed me a pamphlet on volunteer opportunities and said I should look it over once I got home. She then said that while financial contributions were the most common way of helping out the organization, there were still ways I could help out other than financially. She suggested that I join the organization and become a member. A glance at the brochure she had given me showed that there was, in fact, a list on the back or the benefits of being a member. Apparently, I would get regular newsletters and action alerts for upcoming legislation so I could write to my congressional representatives. I asked what local opportunities there were, as I was looking to get my hands dirty, so to speak. Rebecca said that they always had a need for volunteers to participate in picketing and protests, helping to staff tables at special events, and speaking to groups about global warming and the clean energy solution. There was also something called "Party Against Pollution" which involved hosting a party for my own friends to educate them about global warming, something the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy would help me with if I wanted to do it.
Rebecca said the most important things I could do, though, were things I could do on my own. She suggested keeping up-to-date on current energy and global warming issues and writing my congressional representatives about these things, as well as taking energy-saving measures on my own at home. Using compact fluorescent bulbs and setting all my appliances to energy efficient settings would help, as would signing up for green power with my local electric company. She suggested I go to the organization's web site to use a personal energy calculator that would tell me what my current personal energy output was and get suggestions on how to reduce it.
After listening to Rebecca's speech about volunteer opportunities and energy efficiency at home, I asked if she could tell me a bit about the group and how they operate. After all, if I was going to get involved with this organization, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. Rebecca seemed only too happy to talk about the Alliance. First, though, she handed me a volunteer application to fill out and send back to her after I got home.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy operates out of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and is a grassroots, activist organization. The actions they take and the methods they employ are just like what you would expect such a group to use, as it turns out. College-age students are their key demographic, as these are the people who are developing their opinions and views of the world and are so able to be educated to have a favorable view of activism and environmental protection fairly easily. College-age students also apparently make great activists, and are generally quite enthusiastic, at least according to Rebecca. So, a common activity of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is setting up educational tables at colleges and universities, handing out literatures and freebie goodies like pens, tote bags, notebooks, and bumper stickers to passers-by on campus. Of course, the tables are always well-stocked with volunteer applications. Alliance members also frequently speak to college clubs and sometimes even classes. This is where the Alliance gets its core active membership.
The Alliance also has lobbyists that actively lobby congressional representatives on environmental issues, trying to get those representatives to vote in favor of environmental protection through clean energy initiatives and legislation. Picketing and protesting at polluting factories is another activity the Alliance can frequently be found doing. The Alliance holds press conferences and puts out press releases concerning pending legislation and legislative victories, and generally does whatever it can to gain positive media attention for the group, its activities, and its causes. In short, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy uses a mixture of volunteerism, educational efforts, the media, and the legislative process in order to further the goals of their organization. In so doing, they…