Thanks for environmental lessons |

Thanks for environmental lessons

Dear Editor:

I am writing to express my appreciation to the Sopris Foundation and nine innovative citizens of Aspen and surrounding communities for hosting our environmental studies field program, Whitman College’s Semester in the West.

One focus of our studies is local adaptations to climate change. When John McBride and Piper Foster of the Sopris Foundation learned of this, they generously offered to organize a series of meetings in late September with local people who are concerned about climate change and whose work is moving us all toward on-the-ground solutions.

During our time in the area, we learned from city employees Kim Peterson and John Hines how the city of Aspen is working to implement a wide variety of sustainable energy options, including solar, wind, microhydro and geothermal power in its municipal operations. Steve Bossart took us to the Burlingame affordable-housing project to show us how energy efficiency is integrated into much-needed affordable housing in the valley, while Jim Raras of ImPower Systems gave us a tour of two domestic solar-power systems in the valley.

Matt Hamilton of the Aspen Ski Co. gave us information on the company’s efforts to use clean, renewable power. Jim Stark of the U.S. Forest Service met us in the field to discuss proposals for new wind-power projects on public lands across the West.

We then moved downvalley for an inspiring talk with energy expert Randy Udall in a joint meeting with high school students at Roaring Fork High School, followed by a meeting with film producer Mark Harvey to view his film about oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau, “A Land Out of Time.” Finally, we traveled to Rifle to meet city administrator Mike Braaten to discuss some of the social and environmental consequences from the rapid oil and gas development in the region.

I would like the good citizens of Aspen and surrounding communities to know that each of these individuals donated their time to show us how practical work in the real world is being done every day by committed citizens and leaders to address the climate challenge. So on behalf of my 21 Whitman College students, hats off to these local leaders and to the Sopris Foundation for introducing them to us! We learned a week’s worth of lessons in just a few days!

Phil Brick

director, Whitman College

Semester in the West

Walla Walla, Wash.

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