Summer solstice celebration educates Columbia about sustainable energy future

Saturday, June 21, 2008 | 6:24 p.m. CDT; updated 7:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Naomi Lahiri tends the Peace Nook booth at Sol-a-bration, a celebration of the summer solstice, solar energy and other forms of renewable energy. This is the first year of Sol-a-bration, which Peaceworks started to raise awareness about clean energy.

COLUMBIA — People walked and biked to the first annual Summer Solstice Sol-a-bration on Saturday at the Courthouse Square downtown. The event helped educate and raise awareness about the current energy crisis and what citizens can do to fix the problem.

The event, which ran from 1 to 8:30 p.m, included musical entertainment, guest speakers and several informational booths, each aimed at sending the same message to the community: It’s time for change.

“Energy is a pressing matter,” said Mark Haim, director of Missourians for Safe Energy (MSE), the organization that put on the event.

He said people need to quickly start switching to alternative energy sources.

“We need to move towards solar energy, ocean currents, thermal energy and wind for alternative energy sources,” Haim said.

The booths at the celebration began to quickly fill up as 2 p.m. rolled around. The Columbia Climate Change Coalition was there to educate and help those who were interested in being involved in the cause. Director Monta Welch handed out informational brochures and invited people to other events being held by the coalition.

“We all have to get involved to create a sustainable planet,” Welch said. “We want to bring voices to the table and find out what they’d like to see happen and help them get involved in any way they feel comfortable.”

Other organizations at the event included Eclipse Technologies and Missouri Valley Renewable Energy, both companies specializing in altering houses, businesses and agricultural corporations to run on solar energy and help reduce reliance on grid energy.

The Peace Nook had a table of books for those interested in going green or moving toward more energy-efficient habits. Even MU had an active booth run by the MU Housing Extension. The Housing Extension students were there to show people a model of what the MU School of Architecture is working on for the 2009 Solar Decathlon, a contest held in Washington, D.C. every two years.

For the 2009 Decathlon, the students are designing a house that runs solely on solar power. One benefit of a house that uses solar power, rather than grid power, is it creates extra power that can be fed to other sources.

“The house will have enough power to sell back to the electric company,” said Brandon Neish, an MU student.

The Sol-a-bration also had a line-up of musical artists. Rapper Jimmy Spits was happy to be at a celebration for alternative energy.

“I’m just excited to be here and work with these other musicians who are liberal and progressive,” Spits said. “The event is also good to make people aware of our environment and I am happy to be a part of this.”

Lizzie West and Baba Buffalo performed earlier in the day.

As the show progressed, more people trickled in on bikes and with dogs, taking a seat under the shade of trees or stopping at the many booths. Matt and Emily Smith brought their dog, Tupelo, who barked in greeting to people at the festivities.

“It’s a nice day and it’s an opportunity to hear music from a couple of artists we like,” Emily said. “It also offers information on important issues.”

MSE hopes its festival raised awareness in the community and encouraged it to move toward using renewable energy sources rather than relying on gases and fossil fuels.

“We hope that on this solstice weekend, when the sun is at its peak for the year, people will take note of the fact that we got 17,000 times as much energy from the sun as we use each year for all human activities,” Haim said. “It’s important for people to know that it is time for a sustainable energy future, and we’re glad everyone was able come and join us today.”

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