November 3, 2006

Groups Talk Global Warming

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If you walked across Ho Plaza, the Agriculture Quad, or the Engineering Quad yesterday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., you probably noticed one of the many displays by students participating in the International Day of Climate Action, a day dedicated to raising concern about the pressing issue of global warming. Student groups used clever and creative ways to draw attention to this serious matter. Attractions included free solar oven-baked cookies, a wind turbine-building contest, a hands-on bio-fuels demonstration and even jugglers.

This high-energy day, however, was about a lot more than just entertainment. “We’re here to help spread the word about the energy crisis, so Americans can be informed,” said Paul Mutolo, associate director of the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute, as he did a bio-fuels demonstration.

Mutolo is working with Cornell graduate students to increase the durability and decrease the cost of fuel cell power, and the Fuel Cell Institute is already conducting research programs with major fuel companies, including General Motors.

“Cornell is one of the leading institutions in the nation, and we need to be leading in this issue,” said Katherine McEachern ’09, vice-president of the Kyoto Now student organization, which has pressured Cornell to make cuts in its use of global warming gases, since they believe that the U.S. government has not made sufficient energy standards. At the 2001 international Kyoto Conference, the United States was one of the only industrialized nations to refuse to cut its use of carbon dioxide.

According to Kyoto Now students, U.S. institutions must take the issue into their hands. As McEachern spoke, colorful wind turbines spun behind her, as part of a contest that promoted the creative use of sustainability. Prof. Jack Elliott, design and environmental analysis, judged the wind turbines, made of coat hangers and even toilet paper rolls, and first place went to Amy Freitag ’08, second place to Kimberley Schroder ’09, and third place to Tamar Sharabi ’07. The decorative wind turbines were a fun way to emphasize the real usefulness of wind power in whole communities. The nearby town of Caroline is attempting to switch completely over to wind power.