A Hero, Indeed

Joanne Keys : Friday September 14, 10:53AM

We, at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, are still feeling euphoric and enthralled from our Heroes of Sustainability event, which occurred on September 11th.  We honored Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn for his leadership and exploration in sustainable energy solutions in the military.  His speech was truly inspirational for all sectors and political ideals.  Please read this article from the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain Energy Blog for highlights, recap and awe-inspiring messages from the speakers:

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado (the “Alliance”) held its Heroes of Sustainability event this evening at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, CO. The event was a Who’s Who of sustainability in Colorado including a number of former Ritter administration cabinet members including Jim Martin, current Administrator for EPA’s Region 8 Office and former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; and Alice Madden, Wirth Chair for the CU School of Public Affairs and former Climate Change Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to Ritter. Former Governor Ritter himself was there to highlight the Alliance and introduce the Hero of Sustainability, Vice Admiral McGinn, President of the American Council on Renewable Energy.

After a hearty standing ovation, Ritter started by saying that, “being in this room tonight may be one of the most comforting things that I’ve done since leaving office.” The people in the room share values for quality of life for years to come. “It is with great pride that I stand up here.” In his new position as Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, Ritter works with people around the country. Ritter emphasized that 220 million Americans live in states with a renewable portfolio standard or renewable energy standard and 240 million Americans live in states that have efficiency standards. The take home message is that there is public support for what the Alliance and for what Colorado is doing. “The people in this room are doing the things that the public wants them to do.”

This sentiment is echoed in an article by Mark Jaffe in the Denver Post, titled, Red, Blue and Swing States are Green When it Comes to Renewable Energy. According to Jaffe’s article:

“Showing clean tech job growth in some of the blood-reddest of states and aggressive renewable energy policies by Republican governors, even Tea Party darlings like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, the analysis by Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar contends ‘clean tech and green jobs are only contentious inside Washington.’

‘It is almost universally appreciated as the important engine for job development and economic growth that it is,’ says the study Red, White & Green.”

Following another standing ovation, true to his character, Vice Admiral McGinn recognized that while this is an individual award he recognizes that life is a team sport. He then proceeded to recognize Veterans Green Jobs (http://veteransgreenjobs.org/), a non-profit organization that connects military veterans with training and employment in the green sector economy. It is very important that we employ our veterans and use their skills to make a more sustainable nation and a more sustainable Colorado.

The military gets it, said McGinn, and he explained why. He served with other veterans – retired Generals and Admirals with CNA, a research group that represents all of the military services and the Coast Guard. CNA produced a report titled, “Climate Change and the Threat to National Security.” The title says it all, urged McGinn. Climate change is a threat because the increase in global warming and weather events will increase the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, like drought. In this way, climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability and fragile governments will fail.

Even in the face of great science, however, some people just don’t get it. It may be that we are afraid of believing in climate change because we may have to give something up. The truth is that sustainability is a way to live better. Increased energy security, environmental security, economic security – all factors in making a better life.

The military gets it, repeated McGinn. In another report by CNA, Powering America’s Defense Energy and the Risks to National Security, the unambiguous conclusion was that America’s energy posture, and in particular, America’s dependence on foreign oil puts our country at risk. Those who wish to do us harm can exploit that vulnerability. Using September 11th as an example, we can no longer believe in business as usual, emphasized McGinn. What we can do, however, is come together in alliances like this one. We can come together in every town and village across the country. We can create opportunity for jobs and local, regional and global environmental quality.

These problems won’t be solved in Washington but in states around the country. Referring to the statistics offered by Ritter, McGinn emphasized that multitudes of people are already living in states with RES and RPS standards. This is just the beginning. This beginning is being led by the military services. From here in Fort Carson by creating a net zero installation and prototyping microgrids coupled with traditional forms of energy. Leading the way technically and culturally. We can follow that lead and we can see the technology benefits.

Sustainable technologies have made a tremendous impact on military personnel, especially at forward operating bases, by reducing the number of fuel convoys that have to resupply these units to decreasing the weight of the backpacks. What is the take away? The military gets it because sustainability comports with the bottom line namely, operational efficiency and combat effectiveness. According to McGinn, just like we benefit from GPS or the Internet and economic drivers from investments that the military made decades ago, so too can we benefit from their investment in renewable energy and efficiency. We also can’t let political noise drown out the signal that this country will be more secure and more prosperous. This is good for business. CO and the Alliance is a leader in showing the nation how we can move forward.

The alliance is about being everyday heroes as part of this team sport called life for our children and our children’s children for many generations to come.

We are also working toward a high performance building renovation of the Alliance Center as a basis for other commercial building renovations.  We have the right partners and network to make this happen and the funds we raised will go a long way to making this project a huge success.  View this video to see what this project is all about and why it is imperative.

Thank you to all who participated – we hope that you will continue on with us on our journey and for those who are just getting to know our project, we hope you will join us.

Author Bio:

Joanne is the Interim Operations Director for the Alliance. Joanne brings over 20 years of management and executive level experience in the business and technology sectors, including as a Vice President with American Management Systems (a Fortune 500 company) and, most recently, as the President of NANA Pacific (an Alaskan-native owned technology corporation). She has spent many years managing multi-continental/multi-cultural projects and businesses, and looks forward to helping the Alliance incorporate a broader business perspective into the sustainability arena. Ms. Keys has always had a passion for the environment, having served for many years in volunteer wildland firefighting and in Search and Rescue in remote locations. This includes over six years in Antarctica supporting the US Antarctic Program’s scientific missions. These experiences solidified her passion for the environment and for planetary sustainability. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Tech.

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