Envision a New World; Build a Better Future

Julie Yates
Bringing together local and nationally known environmental experts, community members and high school students
On November 12, 2011 over 200 people gathered for an afternoon environmental issues symposium at WMS entitled, “Envision a New World; Build a Better Future.” The symposium featured ten workshops hosted by local experts in the areas of renewable energy, land use/conservation and organic food production and Keynote speaker, Bill McKibben, world-renowned author, educator and environmentalist. (Symposium photos here)
Afternoon workshops were designed to empower participants with knowledge and the practical skills needed to make a difference in their communities. A number of different workshops were offered including, management of public land for multiple uses, the effects of acid rain on New Hampshire’s songbirds and the design of single-home solar hot-water systems. Over 70 participants from the local community and other schools including, Proctor Academy, Gordon College, Concord Academy and White Mountain Regional HS, joined WMS students for the workshops. A full list of workshop titles and presenters is found below.
The Great Hall was filled to overflowing at the conclusion of the workshops to hear remarks from author and climate-change activist, Bill McKibben. The over-200-strong audience was spell-bound by McKibben’s address in which he provided facts and figures detailing the gravity of human-caused climate change, and also offered stories and suggestions for action on a personal and global level.
McKibben inspired all with his personal story of beginning a grassroots march to raise awareness of climate change. This evolved into the formation of a student-based group called 350.org, which works to promote legislative action to stop climate change. 350.org owes its name to the upper limit of parts per million of CO2 that the Earth’s atmosphere can possess if we wish to have a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted. McKibben also stated that, “Warming of 2oC entails a devastating future for at least 600 million people.” He then enumerated a number of changes that have already occurred due to warming like the expanded range of mosquitoes and attendant spread of dengue fever throughout Dhaka, Bangladesh, a country where the people have played virtually no role in raising levels of greenhouse gases.
Leaving the audience with hope and encouragement, McKibben spoke of a recent victory that 350.org effected by encircling The White House with 12,000 peaceful protesters on November 6th. This protest prevented the Keystone XL Pipeline, which threatened to take oil from the tar sands of Alberta through the Great Plains to the Gulf of Mexico, from being immediately developed. However, McKibben warned, until carbon pollution carries with it a stable and significant price, there will be many future projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline to stop.
Symposium organizer and WMS Sustainability Studies Chair, Elizabeth Lokey Aldrich, Ph.D., stated, “The symposium was a huge success. We brought local experts, internationally-known author and activist, Bill McKibben, community members and high school students together to learn about and discuss both current environmental issues and possible solutions. People left with sobering information and motivated to effect change.”
You will find photos from the symposium here.
Check out a recent appearance by Bill McKibben on “The Colbert Report.” 
Workshop Titles and Presenters*
  • Reinventing Local Farms and Participating in Local Food Systems – Tim Wennrich (former WMS faculty member), Meadowstone Farm
  • Land Conservation: Through the eyes of field biologists – Elise Lawson and John Severance, Watershed to Wildlife
  • Grassroots Solar Energy – Melissa Elander WMS ‘95, David van Houten WMS Parent ‘99, SUNREI (Solar Up North Renewable Energy Initiative)
  • Where Have All the Songbirds Gone? How long term ecological monitoring projects can help us understand the environment. – Sarah Turtle, Ph.D., Hubbard Brook Research Foundation
  • Ridgeline Wind Power Development in New England – Boon or Boondoggle?  David Publicover, Appalachian Mountain Club
  • Getting Dirty at School: The challenges and process of growing food and making compost at schools. Sam Brown (former WMS faculty member), Meadowstone Farm
  • Forest Succession: A brief look at the evolution of a working forest. – Jon Martin and Ron Klemarczyk, Martin Forestry, FORECO
  • Agritourism: Creating a win–win situation.– Cindy Lou-Amey, Indian Stream Farms
  • Heart and Mind – Tools for Activists in an Age of Uncertainty – Rebecca Brown, Executive Director, Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust
  • Reading the Landscape for Recreational Uses – Sally Manikian, Applachian Mountain Club.
*A huge Thank You to our Workshop Presenters who volunteered their time and who did a fantastic job!

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