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Symposium features RFK Jr.
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Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) will make the opening remarks at the Feb. 10 symposium on sustainability hosted by Savannah Country Day School.
Congressman Kingston’s remarks will precede Saturday’s major symposium titled “Creating a Sustainable Future: Recognizing, Repairing and Restoring a Fractured World,” sponsored by Country Day’s Creative Minds lecture series.
Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., sustainable architecture guru Bob Berkebile, and Mendocino Wine Company founder Paul Dolan will participate.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was recently named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet,” in large part due to his effort to protect New York’s water supply. He is currently chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance. He has published a number of books including the bestseller Crimes Against Nature (2004) and The Riverkeepers (1997).
Joining Kennedy for the Creative Minds symposium is Bob Berkebile of BNIM Architects in Kansas City. A major proponent of sustainable design, Berkebile is one of the area’s leading architects and is the founding chair of the American Institute of Architect’s Committee on the Environment.
“We’re waking up to our failure to recognize that our buildings and communities are part of nature,” Berkebile says.
“Rather than working with nature, we’ve been setting ourselves and our built environment apart; we’ve been blind to the devastating impact our choices have had on the natural environment,” he says. “So at this point, we need to go beyond diminishing the impact of each design decision and begin to consider how we can restore the environment with each design decision.”
Also appearing Saturday is winemaker Paul Dolan, a leader in environmentally-responsible business. As president of Fetzer Vineyards for 12 years, he helped put that company at the forefront of the organic winemaking field.
In 2004, he co-founded the Mendocino Wine Company, which focuses on creating environmentally-responsible wines and its emphasis on sustainability.
“At Mendocino Wine Company, sustainability means farming and business practices that nourish the environment, the community and the individual, including an abiding respect for the agricultural roots of Mendocino County,” Dolan says. ƒç
The symposium featuring Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Bob Berkebile, and Paul Dolan, will be held Saturday, February 10, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Trustees Theatre on Broughton Street in Savannah. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased through the Trustees Theatre. Call 525-5050.
For more information call 961-8828 or go to
Panel: Warming getting worse, southeast particularly at risk
Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report stating a new degree of scientific certainty that global warming is primarily human-caused. 
The report indicates this warming will continue affecting sea levels, ice cover at the poles and extreme weather events throughout this century. 
The southeastern United States have some of the most vulnerable areas in the nation to these impacts.
“The take home message of this report is that global warming is real, it’s here, and its effects will become increasingly pronounced during our lifetime,” says meteorologist Dr. Brian Soden, IPCC contributing author.
The report concludes there is “at least a 90 percent probability” that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of atmospheric warming since 1950. 
Meanwhile, many southeast states like Florida and North Carolina are considering approval for multiple new coal-fired power plants that would emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into our already saturated atmosphere.
“The work of this report confirms what many have known for years,” says Dr. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. 
“We’re already feeling the affects of global warming and our states and Congress must act now if we are to avert the worst case scenarios that scientists are predicting. Southeast states with our vast coastline, rich agriculture and great forest, are the most vulnerable areas in our nation,” Dr. Smith says.
“We need energy policies and practices like energy efficiency and renewable energy that solve this problem, not more coal-fired power plants that will only add more global warming pollution.” ƒç
Interview: Tom Bonnell
Savannah Country Day headmaster talks about this year’s ‘Creative Minds’ symposium
When most people think of Savannah Country Day, they think of an exclusive private school known both for its academic excellence as well as its conservatism — a farm system of sorts for future generations of Savannah bankers, realtors, politicians and socialites.
But in its ongoing “Creative Minds” series, Country Day has quietly but decisively entered the idea sweepstakes. Its big offering this year is “Creating a Sustainable Future,” happening all this week.
We talked to Country Day headmaster Tom Bonnell about this year’s program.
How does this year’s theme tie in to what you’re trying to do with Creative Minds?
Tom Bonnell: We started Creative Minds to be a community resource to try and bring in new ideas and interesting speakers. Last year’s symposium, for example, was on the moral development of children. 
When we were contemplating what would be a good symposium topic this year, we hit on the whole idea of sustainability. It’s an idea that’s not really well known but one of growing importance — what can we do to live in a way that will be sustainable indefinitely into the future? How can we leave our kids a liveable world? So we decided to build the symposium around that idea, and have three leading spokesmen come in and give people a good understanding: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the environmental end, Paul Dolan on the economic end, and Bob Berkebile on the social end.
How does one get Robert F. Kennedy to come speak at one’s event?
Tom Bonnell: You call and ask (laughs). He had come to Georgia Southern not long ago and we had some people who knew how to get in touch with him.
It’s interesting that a famously conservative institution like Country Day would host RFK Jr. and a screening of Al Gore’s film. Clearly you’re not making a political statement here, right?
Tom Bonnell: Well, some of my parents think we are (laughs)! I’ve tried to reassure them that we’re not becoming some wildly liberal institution. We’re trying as an academic community to bring ideas in and let them be tested. For example, one thing we’re doing is the screening of the An Inconvenient Truth film will be followed by climatologists taking opposing viewpoints, critiquing Al Gore’s film.
So you’re just bringing the issue to the table.
Tom Bonnell: Yeah. Something we’re trying to do is think of our mission in broader ways. We want to educate students and also contribute to all of Savannah by bringing in new ideas – and provoking new thought.
This symposium is a big leap forward.
Tom Bonnell: Well, here’s who we’ve got booked already for next year. E.L. Doctorow...
Tom Bonnell: Yes. And we’ve got Edward Albee coming. Bill Kristol has agreed to come, the preeminent sort of neoconservative thinker.
That’s quite a lineup.
Tom Bonnell: An idea we’re looking at doing is face of education in the 21st century. One of the things that’s kind of fascinating in this study is that the model of schools we’re using is essentially the industrial age model — everyone’s all the same age, everyone spends exactly the same amount of time studying the exact same things. There are some interesting alternatives being developed.
We’re going to take more of a future orientation with it. One of the great things about Savannah Country Day is that even though we have been very traditional, we also make sure to stay connected. We’re always looking at how we can do a better job in future. ƒç
Creative Minds is sponsored by Brasseler USA, Inc., Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty, the Kehoe House, the Courtney Knight Gaines Foundation, the J.C. Lewis Foundation, Melaver, Inc., Charles and Rosalie Morris, John A. and Ruth E. Long Foundation, The Savannah Morning News, St. Joseph’s/Candler Health Care System, SunTrust Bank, and WTKS News Radio.
Can’t ignore Gore
Imperfect but effective An Inconvenient Truth screens at Savannah Country Day on Friday
Let’s face it: Global warming is about as sensitive a topic as gay marriage these days. And equally as politicized. 
So I don’t have to be the one to tell you that An Inconvenient Truth took the country by storm. Those who weren’t altogether beguiled by Al Gore — who just last week was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — were droning on about his inaccuracies. 
In one corner, the ranters. In the other, the ravers. 
I’m an earnest environmentalist and only saw the movie for the first time a few weeks ago. It is not a feel-good flick. Do not see this movie for a warm-fuzzy evening cuddled up on the couch. It is, in a word, inconvenient. 
As an environmentalist I accept global warming as a certainty. And I believe that it is human impact on the earth that is mostly to blame for this phenomenon. 
That said, I watch An Inconvenient Truth with a critical eye. I watched it from the perspective — or as close as I could get — to that of a nonbeliever… of the average American who is not an environmentalist and who may not be sure of where they stand on this complex issue. 
I approached An Inconvenient Truth with heightened skepticism because I believe that the environmental community has done a poor job of communicating this global crisis to the people. Whatever we may have accomplished scientifically or politically, we have failed to internalize this issue for most Americans. 
As an environmentalist, I wanted Al Gore to accomplish what we have not succeeded in doing: hitting home.
Did he succeed? Yes and no. 
From the opening credits the film is a sobering look into the life of a washed-out politician. Now wait. Even those, like myself, who love Al Gore, must recognize what the defeat in 2000 meant for him. And if you didn’t then, now you will. 
An Inconvenient Truth is as much a memoir of Gore’s early years and 2000 campaign as it is his mission and his purpose for the years since. His dedication is evident. 
And from the word “go” Gore is on screen, complete with graphs, laser pointer, and National Geographic-esque images of the Arctic and the Sahara. You can almost hear “Don’t Fear the Reaper” drumming to the beat of the climbing line graphs. Record-breaking temperatures alongside Blue Oyster Cult. The film is 100 percent unadulterated environmental Doom and Gloom. 
But something worked. 
A year or two before the filming of the movie D.C. environmentalists, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, published a report entitled The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World. It was a call to arms for the environmental community, questioning again and again why we’ve failed to narrow the gap between problems and solutions of global warming, why there is no action despite growing consensus, why there has been no true advancement in the fight to reverse these devastating trends. 
In the foreword Peter Teague, environment program director of the Nathan Cummings Foundation offers us a reason: 
“So long as the siren call of denial is met with the drone of policy expertise,” he says, “the public is not just being misled, it’s also being misread. Until we address Americans honestly, and with the respect they deserve, they can be expected to remain largely disengaged from the global transformation we need them to be a part of.”
If these theories are right then the reason that there has been little progress with tackling global warming it not because it doesn’t exist. Conversely, it’s not because there is a great conspiracy to keep you burning fossil fuels. If they’re right then it is because Americans have been misread, because no one thought to TALK to us about it… until now. 
Al Gore deflates this controversial debate from the policy-level, with carbon sequestration and protocols and emissions regulations, and delivers it to the people. He puts the science behind global warming in terms that we can understand. 
He shows photographs that captivate and statistics that aggravate. Gore qualifies and quantifies an issue that Americans have not encountered outside its political holding pattern. He removes global warming from the political arena and sets it down in your living room as a moral challenge.
An Inconvenient Truth will likely do little to sway the disbelievers. But Gore effectively and intimately reaches out to the nonbelievers. 
He says, hey, I was almost the next president of the United States. Let’s talk about global warming. You can call me Al. ƒç
An Inconvenient Truth screens Friday, February 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Savannah Country Day, 824 Stillwood Drive, as part of the ‘Creating a Sustainable Future’ event.
Admission free; seating limited to 400. Sponsored by the Ossabaw Island Foundation.
Summer Teal Simpson is a local freelance journalist. To comment e-mail us at