Solar Citizen: AREDay in Aspen

By Carly Rixham

This week the 11th annual AREDAY Summit, Expo, and Film Festival took place in Aspen, CO.  AREDAY, the American Renewable Energy Day, is an event by the not-for-profit, American Renewable Energy Institute, Inc. (AREI). Jimmy Carter, Ted Turner, Tom Steyer, Amory Lovins, Former Gov. Bill Ritter,  Rhone Resch, General Wesley Clark, Johnny Weiss, John Perlin, Dr. Sylvia Earle, and Susan Reilly were among the distinguished, all-star line up of speakers at this world class event. The four day summit was a deep immersion into thought provoking conversations about the real impact of climate change and solutions for transitioning to a sustainable planet. Hundreds of distinguished leaders and scientists came together to discuss the past, present, and future of renewable energy.  The week was highlighted with a luncheon with our 39th President Jimmy Carter, in which he punctuated our necessity to make drastic changes from our dependency on fossil fuels to permanent renewable energy sources like solar power.  Various RE sectors were represented including wind, biofuels, hydrogen, geothermal and other trail-blazing approaches to sustainability. A recurring theme of conservation was noted as “the elephant in the room”.

Other important topics such as education, economics, ethics and policy were discussed in “arm chair conversations” of panels on stage. An inspiring panel of Women Leading the Way spoke of the interconnectedness of the women’s equality movement and climate change action. Author Osprey Orielle Lake discussed how women’s multi-generational knowledge offers a unique responsibility to create positive change. AREI Executive Director Sally Ranney encouraged the audience to “observe the genius of nature” in finding solutions to energy challenges. She emphasized the importance of “voting with your dollars”. Along this topic, Harvard student Chloe Maxmin and Ted Turner’s grandson John R. Seydel were among a panel who gave a dynamic presentation of the Divest Invest movement, a cutting edge opportunity divest in coal, oil, and gas, and to reinvest in renewables. Over seventy thousand people have signed onto this campaign on, including over three thousand students.

Amory Lovins gave an update of Reinventing Fire that was compelling and dense with facts of the economic advantage of renewables such as solar and wind, which are no longer “fringe activities.” In a panel on the Advancements of Solar moderated by Rhone Resch of SEIA, Solar Energy Industries Association,  and with Steve Kataros of Nokero Solar, Johnny Weiss of SEI, the Solar Energy Initiative, John Perlin reminded us of Einstein’s warning that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse opened each day with a prayer for healing. “The Earth is sick, she has a fever,” he lamented. The week was full of crowd engaging conversations involving impactful people and real actions. In a Turner family panel, Ted Turner had the entire audience howling back at him as he told the story of connecting with nature in howling conversations he has with wolves on his ranch. Overall, it was a unique exploration of thoughtful topics encouraging the imminent, drastic transition to an environmentally and economically thriving future.

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