Global Green Expo 2008 Review: Part 1

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend two days at the Global Green Expo 2008 sponsored by PSEG. (Below are my take-aways from Saturday’s events. Tomorrow will be Part 2 covering Sunday’s events.)

The event took place at the majestic Liberty State Park in Jersey City, from where you can see a coming together of the park, the Hudson River, with grand views of the New York City skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

The venue was simply set up with outdoor tents for the featured speakers, and many boothes for local “green” businesses to supply information. It may not have looked fancy at first glance, but the information and education that I received was priceless and didn’t require any unnecessary glitz and glamour.

I’ll start by admitting that I was never very “green” before this event, but now that I understand what the movement and issues are really about, I’m ready to start making some changes in what I do.

Probably the best part of the whole event was the ability to ask questions and get answers. All of the speakers generously made themselves available for candid Q&A both during and after their talks.

The most common sentiment was questions along the line of: “How can we stay hopeful when there is so much bad news about the climate and the environment?” All the keynote speakers (that I had the privilege to hear, including: Ed Begley Jr., Ten Danson, Jeff Corwin, Emme, Diedre Imus, The Climate Project) answered that:

Themes Common to Most Speakers

  • all were very hopeful
  • there is much that we can control
  • focus on what you can change and control today
  • focus on the progresss that has been made & what’s been achieved in the past 10 years
  • more and more people are “talking the talk”; now more need to “walk the walk”
  • some irreversible losses (e.g. species extinctions) have occurred, but much can still be saved and stabilized.
  • a lot is at stake here; we’re close to being at a point of no return
  • we are running out of time to sit back & slowly problem-solve
  • now is the time for action
  • it does help to start small such as by changing to energy efficient lightbulbs or choosing green cleaning products
  • make one change at a time so that change sticks and you don’t revert to your old habits; one change leads to another

The Climate Project (Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” Slideshow):

  • we can’t enjoy the earth without protecting it
  • Polar Ice caps that are melting are the “canary in the coal mine”
  • it’s not sustainable to live like we live (as a developed nation) if everyone wants to do it (looking at the population growth in developing countries)
  • we have the know-how to solve the problem; we did it with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • it’s the only planet we’ve got
  • there is a good amount of lobbyists for green groups now too that are being able to push back on the more traditional lobbyists for coal, fossile fuel, etc.

Diedre Imus

  • in this generation there has been rise in the amount of childhood diseases (e.g., cancers, autism, allergies, learning disabilities, etc.)
  • our children are past their toxic tipping point (prevent unnecessary exposures)
  • identify, control, and ultimately prevent toxic levels of exposure to avoid health consequences
  • there are many shades of green: aim for the least level of toxicity possible or non-toxic
  • Diedre has done great work in the cleaning & greening of hospitals
  • getting green cleaning products is a good first step
  • don’t get stressed out or you’ll get paralyzed by the amount of information, focus on one less exposure
  • “to people that aren’t educated, this does sound crazy”
  • why doesn’t the government do more? … “it’s not the government’s responsibility…look at all the crap the FDA does approve”
  • look for products that disclose all their ingredients in a way that you can read and understand
  • there are so many levels that all of us can get involved in – pick what your interest is and stick with it (e.g., food, schools, etc)
  • educate kids, parents, and heads of school; education starts in the home; help people understand “why” otherwise there will be a disconnect

Diedre referenced the following African proverb: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try living in a room with a mosquito.”

N.J. Senator Robert Menendez

  • climate change is a global issue that requires local action
  • 88 of the 800+ cities that signed up to support the Kyoto Protocol are in New Jersey (note: the U.S. is the only country not to ratify this treaty yet)
  • sound energy policies should not be seen as a threat to a business’ bottom line, but as an enhancement to their bottom line
  • in just five years, N.J. has become the second largest market in the country for solar energy

Ted Danson (supports:

  • this is not just an economic and health issue, but a moral issue to do the right thing
  • this is still fixable
  • now is an exciting time to become an activist and go beyond just being an environmentalist in your home
  • we have very little time to do a lot
  • this past adminstration has been particularly tough; making a difference requires a bipartisan effort; it’s good business not to destroy the environment you operate in
  • there are good laws out there, they just need to be enforced better
  • it’s hard to get people to focus on something that’s out of sight and out of mind (e.g., Ph Balance of the Ocean; seafood contamination with unsafe mercury levels; overfishing and other destructive fishing practices; oversubsidizing fishing industries; etc.)
  • “sealife doesn’t deserve to be contaminated like we did the buffalo”
  • recommendation to check out the YouTube movie trailer for: “The Shift

Ted Danson: “Twenty years from now when someone asks you: What did you know back then? And, What did you do back then? How are you going to answer that?”

See Part 2 for more….

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