Turner’s humor inspires Aspen crowd | AspenTimes.com

Turner’s humor inspires Aspen crowd

ASPEN – Ted Turner rallied the crowd at the American Renewable Energy Day conference in Aspen Friday night in a presentation that featured a heavy dose of inspiration, a touch of tough talk and a whole lot of humor.

The billionaire philanthropist told the audience they need to fully engage in the effort to reduce carbon emissions and save the planet despite the daunting problems of an indifferent public, a dysfunctional Congress and lack of a coordinated international effort. He said his friend, the late Jacques Cousteau, taught him that humans with a conscience try to solve environmental problems even if there seems to be no hope.

But Turner said climate change and other issues facing the country can be overcome.

“The reason we’re going to win and the Tea Party is going to lose is we’re right and they’re wrong,” he said in concluding remarks that brought a couple hundred audience members to their feet in the Hotel Jerome Ballroom.

The biggest hurdle to reducing national carbon emissions right now is lack of leadership, according to Turner. He said he supported President Obama in the 2008 election, but he is disappointed by the lack of leadership.

“The record has to speak for itself because you get judged on your record,” Turner said. “And right now, I’d have trouble giving Obama anything more than a ‘C’ even though this is the most challenging set of situations anybody’s ever seen. And the global warming issue is clearly the most complicated, complex issue that citizens of any country have ever faced.”

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Turner has a plan of attack on climate change. There is currently too much short-term thinking. He plans to convene some of the greatest minds to sit down and create a master plan for the planet – examining what conditions are desired in five, 10, 50 years from now and so on. Then, they will devise a blueprint on how to get there.

One key will be reducing the population from the current level of about 7 billion to roughly 2.5 billion, which some experts say is the optimal amount for a sustainable planet. To reach that goal, people around the world will have to voluntarily agree to one-child families.

The consequences of not coming up with a global blueprint for the future are dire. “The natural world is on the verge of collapsing,” Turner said.

If anyone can make progress on climate change, it might be Turner. He bailed the United Nations out of financial Armageddon in the late 1990s with a $1 billion contribution. He’s restoring ecosystems as the second largest private landowner in the U.S. and he is donating heavily to efforts to prevent extinction of animal species.

“We saved the whale, now let’s see if we can save ourselves,” Turner said.

Other one-line gems lobbed by Turner included:

• “A billion people went to bed hungry tonight and because of this meeting, I’ll be one of them.”

• “I thought by the time I was 70 we’d at least have a Congress that talks to one another.”

• “We’re a step from greatness. On the other hand, we’re a step from disaster.”

• “Don’t bomb your customers.”

American Renewable Energy Day’s eighth annual conference in Aspen continues Saturday and for a half day on Sunday.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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