“Carbon Nation” Generates Lively Discussion at Punahou School

July 29, 2011

Renewable energy can be an environmental and economic boon to Hawai‘i and the rest of the world if communities accept the changes necessary to wean mankind from fossil fuel, panelists agreed after a free public screening of the film “Carbon Nation” at Punahou School.

“If we’re going to generate our own energy in the state Hawai‘i, or wherever you live, you’re going to actually see it. You cannot expect that Indonesia or Vietnam or China or wherever is going to generate all your fuel, ship it in and you’re going to consume it and then say ‘we should get off oil,’ ” said Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz ’90, one of three panelists leading the question-and-answer discussion after the screening.

“If we’re going to generate our own energy we’re going to drill wells into mountains for geothermal. We’re going to do ocean thermal-energy conversion. We’re going to have acres and acres of wind and solar,” he said at the event on July 27, 2011. “Our expectation about what’s beautiful in Hawai‘i or in our community has to tweak.”

Panelists Emily McCarren, Punahou’s Academy Summer School Director and Language Department Head, and Bill Waring, president of the firm Sustainable Strategies, agreed. Waring, who teaches graduate students at Hawai‘i Pacific University, considers wind farms scenic, while McCarren affirmed that a community that generates its own power will “see it, touch it and feel it.”

Of course, such green projects would generate jobs as well energy — a key point of the 2010 documentary, which explains the economic and national security advantages of clean energy and explores creative solutions to climate change. The film aired as part of Punahou’s film-and-discussion series “Food for Thought,” an element of the School’s sustainability initiative. The event was held in conjunction with Punahou’s Student Global Leadership Institute, which unites rising high-school seniors from around the world in an intensive effort to develop international leaders committed to resolving global challenges. The Institute’s 48 students from 15 schools in China, Japan, Jordan, Singapore and the United States had no shortage of questions for the panel.

McCarren stressed the film’s message of personal responsibility, urging students to engage their classmates in building a sustainable future. “Make it cool among your friends to not drive a car to school. Make it cool to not eat meat one day a week, or ever. You guys are the people your peers are looking to. You establish the new cool.”

The audience in Luke Lecture Hall hushed when a Japanese student described how her country has reduced energy consumption in the wake of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck last March. “We’re actually doing it; we have no choice. At school, we turn off the lights when the sun is out. We don’t use the air conditioner; we open the window if it’s hot. What more can we do, and stabilize the economy at the same time?”

Audience members continued the conversation after the event, which was co-sponsored by the community-action group Kanu Hawai‘i. “Both the movie and the panel were so eye-opening,” said Sara ’12, an SGLI participant. “I’m trying to remain optimistic and focus on solutions. There does seem to be so much potential in Hawai‘i.”

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