Last week I showed the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth to an audience in the basement of my church, United Congregational, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was, I imagine, an event mirrored across the country, as the producers of the film have made it very widely available without charge to community groups for free showings. (A month ago, I also spoke at a showing in a local college auditorium, and there was a lively student panel afterwards. Groups were formed, and work was begun.)
Our event was the purest form of grassroots organizing. I was joined by Bob Wall, New England director of the group SmartPower, which is signing up residents for green energy. In exchange for a few extra dollars a month, anyone who gets a utility bill can have solar, wind, biomass or hydro power added to the grid. While they won"t actually get renewable energy into their homes, it will offset their generation. What"s more, companies like SmartPower add incentives for towns that get the most sign-ups. Bob and I and the other members of my town"s Clean Energy Task Force have already signed up more than 200, which earns us two solar panels for area schools.
Also on hand was Bob Halstead from a local group that is attempting to consolidate ownership of the dozens of community gardens in Bridgeport. Halstead brought collard greens and cauliflower that was the product of those self-same community gardens. (We ate some of it the next night; it was delicious.)
And yet another group represented by Alyssa Israel handed out flyers from Fairfield County Advocates for Open Space aiming to save a 422-acre forest that has been inexplicably preserved for hundreds of years in the heart of an industrial city. Remington Woods was once a gunmaker"s firing range, but now it is home to vernal pools, night herons, sparrow hawks, wood ducks, raptors, deer, fox, freshwater fish and coyotes. Since it has never been officially protected, its scheduled fate is to become an office park, accessed by an expressway.
Bill Garrett, a former energy consultant, government policy advisor, energy entrepreneur and government official, spoke about his website Cleanpeace.org. The group is trying to wake people up about the imminent arrival of oil shortage. "Replacing oil with clean renewable fuels greatly reduces pollution, global warming gas production, the potential for decades of oil wars and combats the social and economic disruptions arising from peak oil," the group says.
E/The Environmental Magazine was there, too, of course, and we handed out free copies to the 30 or so people in attendance. So it was global warming spiced with other issues, making tasty food for thought. The scene reminded me of an old saying about the group Velvet Underground. Only 30 people went to their shows, but they all started bands. Most of the people at our screening were activists in one way or another. After everyone had talked and grabbed the free coffee and homemade desserts, we finally watched An Inconvenient Truth.