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Energy in Transition

Credit: Delaware Valley College. Keynote speaker Bill McKibben talks with DelVal student Celina Burgueño '16 at DelVal.

Apr 09, 2014

Imagine how different the world could be if one chain like Walmart or McDonald’s had parking lots made of solar panels instead of asphalt. 

According to Scott Brusaw, one of the keynote speakers at “Energy in Transition,” a sustainability symposium hosted by Delaware Valley College April 2 through April 4, that kind of simple change could provide places to power electric cars all over the country.

If Walmart installed his technology, he said a full parking lot would produce enough energy to provide ten times the amount of power the store uses.

Brusaw, a former Marine and engineer, developed solar panels made of glass that are strong enough to withstand an 18-wheeler. He’s raising the funds to start manufacturing his product. Brusaw wants to replace roads with glass solar panels that would have LED lights rather than painted lines.  He said the roads would not only significantly cut down on greenhouse gases, but could also light up with phrases like “slow down” to warn drivers if a deer or person was in the road at night.

Scott Brusaw

Credit: Delaware Valley College. Scott Brusaw presents on solar roadways at Delaware Valley College. 

Another speaker, Bill McKibben, a writer and founder of 350.org, discussed how much of a difference people could make by speaking up.

McKibben said to keep the planet livable, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has to be reduced from its current level 400 parts per million to below 350 parts per million. That is where his organization gets its name.

“Climate change came at us harder and faster than we even expected in our greatest imaginings,” said McKibben. “There’s no use in avoiding the position we’re in.”

He joked that his role is to “bum people out,” but his real goal is to get people to organize globally to demand change.

McKibben has been arrested for protesting climate change and is leading a global fight for better policies.

He showed people holding a 350.org sign where a coral reef was disappearing; asked people to remember the subway in New York City flooding with salt water during Hurricane Sandy; and showed a photo of people holding helium balloons marking how much the level of the Dead Sea has changed. He also showed a person from Haiti holding a sign saying, “Your actions impact me.”
 

Bill McKibben
Credit: Delaware Valley College. Bill McKibben presents at Delaware Valley College's symposium on energy.

McKibben said he could go on forever with examples.

“Someone in Haiti can’t get on the train and be at the capitol of one of the world’s superpowers in a matter of hours,” said McKibben. “This problem has to be solved through systems, by engaging in politics. If you want change to happen you have to make it happen. I can’t promise you we will win, but I can promise you there are people all over the world engaged in this fight and I’m honored to stand with them in rooms like this one.”

He compared climate change to the civil rights movement to stress that it’s not enough to know that there’s a problem to get something done about it.

“People had to sit down and get arrested,” said McKibben of civil rights activists and the change they created. “Movements move the needle. They make it easier for people to do the right thing and harder to do the wrong thing.”

Autumn Canfield ’13 ’15, an alumna and a current DelVal policy studies graduate student wants to be a part of the kind of work McKibben is doing.

“Bill McKibben is an inspiration for a student like myself who wants to push for policy to fight climate change,” said Canfield, who served on a panel of graduate students as part of the symposium. 

The Precarious Alliance series was founded in 2010 by College President Dr. Joseph Brosnan to bring people from all viewpoints together to talk about the most important issues of our time. The series looks at sustainability from a different angle with each event, but always focuses on how we can change the way we live today so that tomorrow’s world will be better off. Events have covered food, water, and energy so far. The next event, scheduled for fall 2015, will look at land.

Funding for this year’s Precarious Alliance symposium was provided by The Burpee Foundation and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. The Burpee Foundation provided a $75,000 grant to support the event. For a full list of panelists and speakers from this year’s event please visit: precariousalliance.org