This past weekend my beloved school, Western Kentucky University, hosted the Campus Community Partnership for Sustainability conference. Sure, it’s a mouthful, but it’s worth pronouncing! The weekend included talks from key speakers Jerome Ringo and Chad Pregracke, workshops, live music, and a local dinner! Students, educators, and eco-minded folk from all around the region attended.
I was able to catch Jerome Ringo's speech that opened the ceremony. He is the president of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environmental and business leaders. His topic really hit home with me as it was on the subject of environmental justice and accessibility of the environmental movement to minorities. Did I not -- listen up, you 1.5 readers of my blog -- just write about the lack of diversity in the environmental world? His message was well received as he detailed his climb from working in the petrochemical business to becoming president of the National Wildlife Federation and later, the Apollo Alliance. He did however, talk quite a bit about how he believes carbon sequestration is a viable option when the proper technology arises, which caused a few audience members to show some teeth.
Chad Pregracke, the founder of Living Lands and Waters, a nonprofit designed to "aid in the protection, preservation and restoration of the natural environment of the nation’s major rivers and their watersheds" was an incredibly lively visitor. Eating dinner with him felt more like a kegger than a formal reception. Not to say he was inappropriate but he was definitely fun, and I think everyone (21 and up that is!) wanted to have a couple beers with him and hear stories about all of the awesomely weird things he's pulled out of our nation's rivers. He gave a brief run-down of his past as a commercial shell diver that lead him on his one-man quest to save the Mississippi and beyond!
His speech was particularly enthralling because his incredibly empowering story was sprinkled with awesomely cheesy jokes, little side quips, and quirky tangents. He took special care to humanize his efforts for us, emphasizing the fact that great things can be done by people equipped with a lot of passion and little fear of making billions of pesky and audacious phone calls. By the end of his talk, we all wanted to ride on his giant barge and brag to him about how many refrigerators we excavated from the murky depths! Even a youngster in the audience asked if he was accepting applications for his crew. "How old do you have to be?" the boy asked. "How old are you?" asked Pregracke. "10," said the boy. "You have to be 10, then!"
Saturday night's visit from Pregracke was definitely the highlight of the weekend as we feasted on a delicious local meal and danced to the Colonel's Secret Recipe bluegrass band, but the whole conference went swimmingly.
For more information about the conference or for links to The Apollo Alliance or Living Lands and Waters, check out this website!