Green Drinks - Saving the World One Sip at a Time

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
February 26th, 2009

While St. Patrick’s Day may still be a few weeks away, 50 some odd engaged and concerned Rossland residents got together at the Old Fire Hall on Tuesday night to partake in some green drinks. While not literally green, the drinks (red and white, actually) were imbibed while the group discussed environmental issues in a unique conversation cafe style. Just what is Green Drinks? Local event series organizer Michelle Laurie’s blog describes it as, “Green Drinks in my small town is about getting together over drinks, learning more about an environmental or social topic and stimulating conversation. I try and find a resource person to kick off the discussion and provoke us to think beyond what we might know. The fun is really in meeting new people and hearing their thoughts.”

Kicking off this week’s edition of the monthly series was Rossland local and resident alternative energy source expert Ken Holmes. Speaking in front of the group (a few of whom came from as far afield as Grand Forks and Christina Lake) Ken shared examples of alternative energy projects–both planned and ongoing–from around the world. The overriding theme of his talk was Canada’s lack of real action in the environmental crisis gradually gripping the world and how, as a country, we’re “Behind the Eight-Ball,” as his lecture was titled.

Holmes gave various examples of large scale alternative energy projects in the worlds of biomass, biogas, wind, tidal, micro-hydro, solar and geothermal. One particular example that caught my attention was the massive wind farms that have been developed over the past decades in the North Sea. On one December day last year, The Netherlands, a country of 16 million people, set a record with over 30% of that nation’s power being supplied on that day by windmills. Impressive to say the least. Countries the world over that are not as non-renewable resource rich as Canada are scaling up technologies and projects today to meet the power needs of tomorrow.

And speaking of scaling up, the world’s largest wind turbine–currently being installed off the coast of Great Britain–will be over 400 feet tall and generate over seven megawatts of power from one turbine. To put 7mw of power in perspective, that’s approximately twice Rossland’s entire energy draw from one windmill.

Windmills themselves are anything but new technology with the first having been built in 5th century Persia. ‘Old technologies are new again’ was the main message Holmes wished to pass on. “Lesson one of my talk is that you’ve got to do the most you can with the resources you’ve got. There are very few new technologies out there in alternative energy. It’s really all about applying today’s modern technology to very old ideas and solutions,” said Holmes.

Following the opening presentation, the crowd broke up into groups of five to interact and share ideas in small group settings. The thoughts given to ponder were ‘what would we do both locally and federally if we were the government’s environment minister’ as well as ‘what can we do on the ground today to green up our environment and take advantage of green/clean power generation?’

The conversation Cafe method proved to be an excellent way of getting group interaction and knowledge sharing happening. For fifteen minutes each group bandied about various ideas, from the ultra-cynical to ‘big dreams and grand schemes’, with a few realistic ideas that could begin implementation almost immediately tossed in for good measure. People then shifted around to new tables, forming new groups with one “group host” remaining at each table to talk about what the precious group came up with and lead into the new group discussing the same issues. Following the two fifteen minute sessions, the collective came back together to discuss what had been talked about and share ideas.
While a common theme of wanting to do something positive for the environment brought the group together, there was a wide variety of thoughts and ideas on how to solve the environmental issues facing Rossland and the world. I was pleasantly surprised at the willingness and acceptance of new ideas with very little negativity, at least in the groups I participated in, and a real sense of cooperation and building on each other’s thoughts and ideas.

A few of the ideas thrown out included trying to take advantage of the approximately 30 degree heated water that sits in the mines underneath Rossland and using that in some way to heat homes or businesses. Increasing education and political pressure were also talked about, but many folks noted that environmental education has been around for decades with little or no real effect, and that education by doing would be a wiser and likely more successful approach.

Most attendees hung around for an hour or more after the event concluded, actively engaging one another and continuing the discussion. I found the aspect of meeting new people and getting into some deep conversations with them to be the most enjoyable part of the evening. It’s always refreshing to discuss issues with similarly-minded folk and it felt like the seeds of future connections that could institute real change were planted.

If nothing else, the evening made me aware of the need to start making some personal changes so that I’m not content to be one of the many people in the world who spend hours discussing issues and spreading word of the calamities facing us, but who don’t actually do anything.

Green Drinks will be happening next on Monday March 30th with Schaun Goodeve leading a discussion on sustainable tourism and again on Tuesday April 21st with Jenifer Stephenson explaining local options for solar and micro-hydro. For anyone interested in learning more about environmental issues, Green Drinks is the ideal venue.

To keep the conversation going on the local level, check out the Telegraph’s forum on this issue, “Ideas to improve Rossland environmentally and economically”, and post your thoughts on the subject. Rosslanders have a history of rallying around great ideas; between Green Drinks facilitating discussions and other venues like the Telegraph’s forums, we might just come up with that great idea that Rosslanders can get behind to turn our mountain top town into a world-wide example of sustainable living.

So raise that green drink and toast Mother Nature by throwing your idea in the hat today and making a real change tomorrow.

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