Our second day started with “Movement Building” exercises. I was skeptical at first, but once we started talking in terms of GECO it started to become interesting. We created a mission statement and discussed strategies to out our mission into action. In the end we decided that through GECO
“We are promoting and acting for a sustainable future within Gettysburg College and the local community by taking individual action and collaborating within and across organizational boundaries.”
We started talking about organizational structure after this, and discussed why many leadership structures fail. Central leadership is too demanding of a single person, and dispersed leadership is too decentralized to keep a focused path. The snowflake model was our solution. Like a snowflake, this model depends on a central coordinator with dedicated and active team of leaders. The leaders reach out to the less-involved members for their specific tasks, and the central coordinator oversees everyone and makes sure communication occurs.
After this we split up for lunch and I had to deal with trying to manage our group funds and people wanting to go a million different places. After lunch we split up and each attended workshops of our choosing. annoying. Andy and I went to a smart electric and utilities workshop where panelists included analysts from private firms in the utility industry. It might have been good but the audience was neither informed nor well-spoken: the questions they asked were long-winded, unfocused ramblings that showed no understanding of electricity production or markets. The “mediator” made things worse by continually interjecting to impose his highly unprofessional and often incorrect thoughts. I hung around for a little after the workshop finished and had the opportunity to meet Rob Barnett, and analyst from Bloomburg financial. He spoke to me a little more deeply about demand response but we did not have time to enter into an intense discussion.
The next session was all about the Billion Dollar Green Challenge. Basically, this was exactly my idea of creating a revolving fund at Gettysburg which would support sustainable efforts and be repaid through cost savings. I got to network with two of the speakers, one of which was Mark Orlowski of the Sustainable Endowment Fund. This is the same guy who does the Sustainable Reportcard…he is someone I would love to bring to campus. I also met a guy who graduated last year from Dartmouth but as his senior project he got the wheels turning on creating a revolving fund. It is currently in the end of the planning stages. For me, this was definitely the most useful session.
The final session was a peer-to-peer session. It was lame, but Andy and I did get to meet Chris Ackman, hippie extraordinaire. This kid had absolutely no concept of reality. He told us we should just invest entirely in solar and we would have no need for natural gas as a peaking fuel. I could summarize his plan as a widespread solar boom, starting tomorrow, that would leave us energy independent by the end of the year. Andy and I had no problem exposing the ludicrous nature of his plan, but he was stubborn in his ignorance. What’s most sad is that other people who were also uninformed were quick to believe him and label Andy and I as opponents of the cause. No wonder people with power don’t take us seriously…
That evening was the main session, and everyone was hyped for Lisa Jackson’s appearance. She was an interesting choice in that throughout her speech she held an air of cynicism. While I cannot know for sure, it seemed to me this stemmed from her recognition of the ignorance and unfocused “activism” of the general audience. She was visibly annoyed when a group of guys in gas masks stood up in front of the stage and held up a “No Fracking Way” sign. On the other hand, the crowd ate it up.
Bill McKibben was next and I was excited for his speech. 350 photos were looped in the background, and he easily won sympathy support with every small child sporting a big grin and a 350 sign. Personally, I was disappointed. He was not an exceptionally enticing speaker and he did not have anything groundbreaking to say.
The last speaker, some guy named Tim DeChristopher, was the entertainment for the event. He apparently has a record of arrests and has been charged with two felonies relating to the obstruction of coal mining operations. He was obnoxious in his doomsday predictions but one thing saved him in my eye: his direct criticism of Power Shift. He was straightforward in telling the audience that Power Shift was nothing. It was not real activism, and it was not going to change anything. He called for real action like uniting to physically block a mountaintop removal operation. If we did that Obama would be forced to choose between stopping the operation or calling in the military on protestors, and DeChristopher was confident in which way Obama would fall.
We took a group picture after the speakers and headed back to the hotel. Overall it was a pretty good day. It was helpful (leadership, mission statement, billion dollar challenge) as well as entertaining and funny (hippie boy). Tomorrow we will head to a morning session and then head on back to the Burg… Returning to real life! Well, not really…
EDIT (3/10/12): Looking back on this I see that once again our thoughts and ideas never became anything more. We spent a good amount of time this weekend talking about GECO and how we would fix it, and we had grand ideas, but its a year later and nothing has changed. Also, the “snowflake model” sounds a lot like our APO leadership model where the President is the central coordinator and the VP’s are the team leaders. It works fairly well, at least for Gettysburg. I also failed at networking here, because I should have spoken much more with the professionals and made my knowledge, skills, and passion known. I feel like only in the last half-year or so have I begun to learn to capitalize on networking opportunities.