The Voice of Youth

January 31, 2012

An energy policy for my generation– Laura Rigell, letter to the editor published in the Maryville Daily Times March 2, 2012

Dear Editor:

The fossil fuel industry is overflowing with fallacy. By financing politicians and sowing doubt, oil, gas and coal companies are preventing America from acting in my generation’s best interest. I am a 20-year-old Blount native and realize that we are on a dangerous path. Our major current sources of energy are dirty and finite, yet we are misled to think that these are the only cost-effective options.

The Keystone XL pipeline is an illustration of this deception. A study by the Cornell Global Labor Institute reported that the number of U.S. jobs that TransCanada claims would be created by the Keystone XL pipeline is a vast overestimate. It turns out that the pipeline may actually kill more jobs than it creates, by increasing fuel prices in the Midwest. This region currently depends on an influx of Alberta tar sands oil, and the Keystone XL pipeline would carry this and much more oil to Texas where it would be shipped overseas by Saudi Arabian-controlled port refineries. The pipeline would not increase American energy independence, while threatening our breadbasket with an oil spill.

America is capable of so much more than this. In 1991, the Department of Energy published a “National Wind Resource Inventory” which demonstrated that three states — Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas — could harness enough wind energy to supply our whole nation’s electricity needs. With relatively little upfront investment, we could create a resilient energy infrastructure to replace our current outdated system. We can and must produce domestic energy that is clean and infinite. Let’s think out of the smog-filled box and create an energy policy for my generation, an energy policy for the future.

“Everyone has to be an optimist in TennYEN because we’re working to change the future.”  – Doug Hulsether, TennYEN-Blount, December 2011

By Will Kochtitzky

One and a half years ago, Sierra SCENE (Sierra Student Coalition Empowering Nashville Environmentalists) was founded in Nashville to help provide an outlet for high school youth in Nashville, TN and their passion for environmental issues. Since being founded, the Tennessee Youth Environmental Network (Tenn YEN) has been started by Laura Rigell and Alex Durand, two gap year students, in Maryville Tennessee, to help connect high school environmental groups. Last week, Sierra SCENE officially became Nashville’s Tenn YEN chapter, as Tenn YEN is now in three counties, Blount, Knox, and now Davidson and about 20 high schools!

This massive uprising is no mistake, high school students realize that these climate issues are going to effect our generation more than any generation on this planet right now. We are the youngest ones on this earth that can step up, organize, and speak out for ourselves. These students are taking action and mobilizing fast, so fast that some days I have a hard time keeping up with the everyone. I wanted to share a few updates about these different organizations.

Upon returning from SSREC, Tenn YEN launched three new campaigns: HEEP (Home Energy Efficiency Program), a localizing group, and YEE (Youth Environmental Education), and they have all hit the ground running. HEEP has already partnered with Habit for Humanity in Maryville to begin weatherizing homes to help cut down on energy bills. The localizing group helped to plant 20 trees (some edible, all natives) at Whites Creek High School in Nashville, TN. YEE, is a transformation of what Laura and Alex (the founders of Tenn YEN) have been doing thus far this semester, as more and more schools are receiving visits from previously climate engaged youth.

Sierra SCENE, having recently merged with Tenn YEN, has reprioritized their vision. Sierra SCENE is dedicating themselves to help support local Nashville high schools, support Tenn YEN in all campaigns, attend environmental conferences like SSREC and Power Shift, and continue to develop leaders in Nashville and across the state.

Many Nashville area high schools are starting or have started exciting campaigns. MLK Magnet is working on getting local food in their cafeteria as well as a garden near campus. Hume Fogg Academic is working on a recycled art show and increased recycling at their school. University School of Nashville is currently working on establishing the first high school Green Fund in the world, composting, a garden, and installing solar. St. Cecilia is also working on getting a Green Fund and a garden. Whites Creek High School is looking for more ways to engage freshmen, with an upcoming event to attract them and teach them about basic environmental problems. High schools across the state are getting busy changing their schools to become more sustainable and help reduce our impact of the climate.