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Sustainable Living Fair draws over 30 organizations, features ‘Getting to Solartopia’ author

Sunday, September 14, 2008 | 9:13 p.m. CDT; updated 9:28 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 14, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents interested in leading a more sustainable lifestyle attended the annual Sustainable Living Fair on Saturday at the Atkins-Holman Student Commons at Columbia College.

The fair was sponsored by Peaceworks' Center for Sustainable Living and the Columbia Earth Day Coalition.

Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, organized the event, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event featured booths from over 30 different organizations, 13 workshop sessions and a keynote address by Harvey Wasserman.

A prominent member of the 1970s anti-nuclear movement, Wasserman became a strong advocate for renewable energy, writing "Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030." The book details a not-so-futuristic world that has become almost entirely sustainable. In the fictional Solartopia, it is illegal to create something that cannot be reused. Solar energy, wind energy and biofuels are the primary sources of energy. All buildings have solar panels, and most people are able to commute using mass transportation.

Wasserman had no trouble localizing his discussion on the dangers of nuclear power because another nuclear plant is being planned for Callaway County.

Wasserman said with its large amounts of unusable waste and potential harm to both people and the environment, the entire nuclear industry is a direct roadblock to a sustainable planet.

"This industry is standing between us and what I'd like to call Solartopia," he said.

Wasserman also said renewable energy­ — such as wind, solar and biofuels — should not be referred to as "alternative."

"I no longer refer to these as alternative energies. Coal, gas and oil are the alternative energies; these are the mainstream," he said.

Wasserman, who lives in Ohio, said the government should completely cut government subsidies to the energy sector to put all forms of energy — renewable and nonrenewable — on equal footing.

During his presentation, Wasserman said if those subsidies were cut, he believes wind would beat out energy giants, such as oil and gas, and rise to become the cheapest, cleanest and most widely-used energy source. Wasserman said putting the energy sector in the free market is the only way for wind to become the country's mainstream resource.

Wasserman also ran a workshop on nuclear energy. Other on-site presentations included natural food cooking lessons from the Main Squeeze's Leigh Lockhart and an overview of bike commuting.

The event also featured two off-site solar tours. Columbia Climate Change Coalition — one of the 20 sub-sponsors of the fair — took two groups to sites in Columbia that have implemented solar energy. One group visited a Columbia home that had been converted to use passive solar heating, and the other visited Columbia's first home that uses solar panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity that powers the house and stores excess energy on the grid.

In addition to the workshops , there were a handful of corporate businesses selling green technology. Advanced Energy Technologies and Eclipse Technologies both brought models and visual presentations of their solar and wind energy products.

Lynn Johnson of the Sierra Club welcomed the diversity in organizations. "I'm pleased to see there is a big crowd," Johnson said. "It's always great to see the variety. It all just comes to same problem from different angles."

Brad McConnell came to the fair to learn more about a subject he is already well-versed in. McConnell is studying architecture at MU and interested in sustainable development.

"Locally, this is the most significant event that exhibits examples and fosters dialogue about the concepts and principles underlying a viable effort at achieving a more sustainable society," he said.

 


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