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From Kindergarten to Carbon Clouds: Time to Reinvent Energy

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Some people call me a hippie. It might be the fact that I’m an Environmental Studies major, or that I never leave the apartment without my reusable coffee mug, or that I haven’t trimmed my hair since 2009. Or that I get internships like this one, where I write blog posts about things like alternative energy and being a hippie.

But I think the heart of my identity is just the fact that I’ve figured out that as I get older, the world isn’t getting quite as awesome as I thought it would. In 1996, my kindergarten teacher told us how to reduce, reuse and recycle, and to turn out the lights when we left a room. I did as I was told and trusted that the adults would take care of the rest.

But as I grew older, I craved the ‘great outdoors’ and fresh air that I’d read about, I helped preserve with every milk carton my little hands recycled, and yet I was greeted with expanses of red pine, and smog reminiscent of something that would seep out of a Stephen King novel. I felt let down, and asked a question: “What on Earth have we been doing for fifteen years?” My research on that one has produced little beyond evidence of increased dependency on carbon-based fuel, so, instead, I pose another question: “What can we do now?”

Which brings me to the aforementioned job description. As the intern for The Nature of Things 2011 lecture series, the theme of which is Reinventing Energy, I am going beyond personal usage of stainless steel mugs and dealing with UTA to getting all of you involved. Because it can’t just be me that’s noticed that things can change. For years now, we’ve been hearing about emerging renewable energy technologies, seeing windmill prototypes, and puzzling over diagrams of how photovoltaic cells work. The solutions are out there, and to use a hippie term, that’s pretty rad! Now we need to quickly make the transition from talk to reality. Fifteen years is enough for me.

This year’s speakers have some answers. The series will open up with Jeff Muhs, director of USU’s Energy Dynamics Lab, who will discuss how to transform our energy system without delay. Fred Krupp, our keynote speaker, will talk about the unfair market challenges faced by clean energy, and how to fix that. Jonathan Hoekstra acknowledges the challenges of establishing clean energy infrastructure, and will teach us how to deal with it. And finally, a community panel of energy leaders will bring a local perspective to it all.

The way our energy is produced affects every single one of us. We breathe carbon emissions. We fall in love with landscapes that succumb to drills. And now we know that things can change. Join me over the next several weeks as the Utah Museum of Natural History presents some people who are making “reinventing energy” a reality. Bring your questions, tell your friends, and talk about it, because learning is the first step. Come to the lectures as a way to commit to creating a future that will not disappoint kindergarteners sitting in classrooms right now. You don’t need to be a hippie, just someone who’s sick of waiting.

You can view the complete schedule for The Nature of Things 2011 on the Museum’s website and Facebook page. I invite you to follow this blog to join the conversation.