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Ted Turner, Lester Brown highlight ARE conference

John Colson
Pitkin County Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” Talks by media mogul Ted Turner and environmental guru Lester R. Brown, a panel discussion on the state of the Arctic regions, performances by Native American dancers, musicians, numerous lectures and other events are on the bill for American Renewable Energy Day 2008.

The three-day format, scheduled for Aug. 21-23 in Aspen, is a first for the event, said founding organizer Chip Comins. He came up with a one-day series of activities in 2004 as a way promote education and awareness of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies as practical solutions to global warming, according to the nonprofit organization’s mission statement.

Tickets for Turner’s Aug. 23 “armchair conversation” with Pat Mitchell, former president of the Public Broadcasting System and current CEO of the Paley Media Center, will go on sale Tuesday through the Wheeler Box Office. Many other events and activities throughout the weekend are free and open to the public.



A large part of the reason for expanding ARE Day to three days, Comins said this week, is the Aspen Institute’s offer to sponsor the event and open the Paepcke Auditorium for certain activities.

For example, institute President Walter Isaacson will take part in an Aug. 21 panel discussion at the auditorium, along with Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and a frequent Institute visitor, and Sally Ranney, environmental consultant to Turner and a principal in the Stillwater Preservation organization.



The discussion, titled “Notes on the Arctic,” will focus on a recent Aspen Institute-sponsored trip to the region that included the three panelists and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who took a first-hand look at the current conditions in the region as a consequence of global warming.

Other activities throughout the three days will include film screenings, starting with “Burning The Future: Coal in America,” which will be the subject of a panel discussion concerning the conflicts between West Virginia’s mountain regions and the coal industry.

Also to be screened is “Fields of Fuel,” winner of the Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. It contends that biodiesel is the fastest and most sustainable means to reducing our country’s dependence on oil.



On Aug. 22 at the Wheeler Opera House, philanthropist Peter Buffett and Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse will discuss “Connecting Carbon and Spirit.” Looking Horse, according to Comins, is the 19th-generation keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, a 2,000-year-old Lakota peace pipe used throughout the centuries for prayer, meditation and peacekeeping.

“The idea of connecting carbon with spirit is an interesting way to look at this issue in a whole different light,” said Comins, who will moderate the discussion. “To think of both carbon and spirit as things that exist everywhere, but that you cannot see, smell or touch, is intriguing.”

Another highlight of the Aug. 22 lineup will be a talk by Lester R. Brown, an internationally renowned expert on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of “Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization,” will speak at 11 a.m. in the Wheeler. Brown is described by the Washington Post as one the world’s most influential thinkers.

Other speakers include Jerome Ringo, president of the Apollo Alliance; Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; nationally recognized environmental consultant Sally Ranney; Randy Hayes, founder of the Rainforest Action Network; representatives from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Presidential Climate Action Project; Native Wind; Rocky Mountain Institute; and other nonprofit leaders, authors and photographers.

Throughout the day, panel discussions will offer participants the chance to hear these experts engage with one another about the future of our planet and the roles of renewable energies. These interactive discussions will feature question-and-answer sessions with the public.

On July 23, musician Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, will perform on the Wheeler Opera House stage along with the Native American Sacred Wind Dancers.

“Turner’s and Buffett’s decision to align themselves with ARE Day demonstrates their desire to bring solutions for climate and energy challenges to the forefront of our national dialogue,” Comins said.

Buffett and the Native American dancers will perform music from the acclaimed theatrical production “Spirit the Seventh Fire.”

A children’s “climate solution panel” is planned for the morning of Aug. 23. Smitha Ramakrishna, a youth leader and founder of AWAKE, will join Jessy Tolken, executive director of the Energy Action Coalition, on the panel.

In addition, starting at noon, there will be renewable energy demonstrations and family activities on the Cooper Street mall and Wagner Park, including live music with Aspen’s John Michel and Michael Jude from Take the Wheel and a special performance by John Oates.

For a complete schedule of activities, or more on ARE Day, go to http://www.areday.net

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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