By Nicolas Niarchos
New Haven residents and Yale students flocked to the Peabody Museum on Thursday night in search of a common goal — ideas for making the Elm City greener.
Six representatives from both Yale and New Haven organizations spoke about the potential for New Haven to become an environmentally sustainable city. The Peabody talk was part of a national event in which concerned activists from 70 separate communities across the country gathered in groups to discuss ways they could make their home towns more sustainable.
Julie Newman, the director of Yale’s Office of Sustainability, who spoke first at the panel, said there are areas in which the University can become more environmentally friendly.
“I imagine a community where energy is produced efficiently and non-efficiently using renewable and non-greenhouse gas sources, where there is no waste and where food is available for all,” she said.
Colleen Murphy-Dunning, director of New Haven’s Urban Resources Initiative, said the city needs to plant more trees — the 26,000 trees in New Haven take in only 7,516,183 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, she said. New Haven should adopt a plan like one recently announced by New York, which has committed to planting a million trees by 2016, she said. Murphy-Dunning commended Yale students for planting 144 trees over the summer.
Peabody Museum Director Michael Donoghue, who introduced the panelists, said Yalies’ planting of trees was helpful to the community.
“It’s good to see Yale students doing something useful,” he said.
The event’s final speaker, Jerome Ringo — president of the Apollo Alliance and an environmental activist from New Orleans — said that as an African-American, he was inspired by the environmental vision articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. Ringo spoke of the devastation of hurricanes Rita and Katrina in New Orleans and the Army’s naivete in promising to build new levees there by 2015. In other parts of his remarks, Ringo linked the current warm weather to global warming and criticized politicians such as Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe for being ignorant of the science of climate change.
Many of those who attended the forum said they think New Haven can become more sustainable.
Jessica Strauss SOM ’09 said she thinks New Haven can adopt policies that are more environmentally sound.
“I believe that New Haven can be a sustainable city,” she said. “It has all the pieces in place to do so, and I’d love to be a part of that change.”
Aaron Good ’04, who currently lives in New Haven and attended the forum, said the city can take steps to mitigate its negative environmental impact. He said he plans to ride in the Folks and Spokes environmental bike race on November 10.
“I think sustainability is the way of the future,” Good said. “There must be a critical mass for change to happen, and if that can be anywhere, New Haven is a prime candidate in this important move.”
Francis Knize, the managing director of Solar Trains Company, said he hopes to bring a solar-powered monorail to New Haven.
“We can run [a monorail] on solar power and brake reclamation,” he said. “We’re sure of it.”
Plans for a similar $2.5 million project in Hartford were rejected last year, he said.
But not all forum attendees thought the panel offered viable answers for sustainablity.
A New Haven resident at the event, who wished to remain anonymous, said the panel did not offer enough ideas about how the city can become more environmentally friendly.
“I don’t think it did very much,” he said. “There are specialists all over the world dealing in specifics, and all this offered was a few generalities.”