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Global warming: a conversation

In early May, Greenprint Denver, an initiative to promote sustainable development and ecologically friendly practices throughout Denver, and the Denver Public Library hosted a discussion with Laurie David, global warming activist and Academy Award-winning executive producer of “An Inconvenient Truth.” Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper mediated the event, held at the Colorado Convention Center.Laurie David is a veteran of the entertainment industry, having worked as a comedian and a writer on the David Letterman show. She also is married to Larry David, comedian and co-creator of “Seinfeld” and the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”Over the course of two hours, David discussed her activism origins and collaborations with others like former vice president Al Gore and singer Sheryl Crowe. She also talked about the ways everyone can work towards stopping global warming.The stage for the conversation was set in a ballroom at the center, with David and Hickenlooper sitting in armchairs, giving the event an intimate feeling. Hickenlooper started by asking David how global warming became her main cause. She said when she had children she started making connections between the SUVs her friends were driving – the fumes we breathe from the cars – and the changing weather patterns.To the surprise of Hickenlooper and the audience, David brought attention to the bottle of water that she had been given. “I really want to take a sip of water, but I feel guilty drinking out of this water bottle,” she said. “You should have a pitcher and glasses up here.” More than 2.5 million water bottles are thrown away every hour, she said.According to a report, “Water, Water Everywhere: The growth of non-carbonated beverages in the United States,” by Jennifer Gitlitz and Pat Franklin of the Container Recycling Institute, 144 billion containers were wasted – not recycled – in 2005. Many of those types of containers are packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles.The article stated the following: “PET plastic is a petroleum product. Because it is presently recycled at such low rates, tens of billions of new plastic bottles must be manufactured each year from virgin materials – fossil fuels – to replace those bottles that were not recycled.”Carbon emissions increase with the production of the containers as well, not to mention the vast amount of plastic in landfills.David emphasized throughout the discussion that everyone can be part of the solution to stop global warming. Many people get overwhelmed, she said. They may feel the problem is too big, or they can’t do enough to make a difference, so they do nothing at all.In her new book “Stop Global Warming: The Solution is You – An Activists Guide,” David provides examples of how everyone can become an activist by educating others and making small changes in their own lives. Something as simple as unplugging your phone charger from the outlet when not charging your phone decreases energy use – and your electric bill to boot, she said.When the discussion turned to education, David said several countries in Europe have already made “An Inconvenient Truth” required reading. Yet, when the producer offered 50,000 copies of the movie to the National Science Teachers Association, they were turned down. David cited special interests as the reason. According to a Washington Post op-ed written by David in November 2006, the NSTA had been receiving $6 million from Exxon-Mobil since 1996. Exxon and other corporate sponsors provided donations for several educational initiatives run by the organization, and Exxon also has a representative on the group’s advisory board.Still, David has met many teachers who are incorporating the movie with their lesson plans.David has created a series of textbooks, scheduled for release this fall, for middle and high school teachers. “Today’s middle school students are tomorrow’s activists,” she said. There also is a “classroom” section on the Web site dedicated to students, teachers and administrators, providing them with tips and suggestions for making changes in schools, such as banning idling in carpool lanes and replacing oil-burning furnaces.Throughout the two-hour discussion, Hickenlooper provided questions submitted by the audience. One repeat question was how to address skeptics. David said science is backing global warming. The discussion has ceased to be about opinions and is strictly based on fact, she said.”From Hurricane Katrina to the worst forest fire season on record,” David said there is evidence of global warming. In a 2005 speech, she said she cited 200 weather records broken the previous year. “Last year, there were over 2300 weather records broken,” she said. People are noticing the differences, David added. For those who say, “Well, we just had one of the worst snow storms in Denver’s history. There’s no global warming,” David said that extreme cold temperatures are just as much a symptom of global warming as extreme hot temperatures.She re-emphasized how grassroots efforts – and efforts by local governments – pave the way for future activism.”I don’t believe everyone can do everything,” David said.But progress is everyone doing something.

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