Environmental panel discusses sustainability, youth action

By Mollie Durkin

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct an error in Constantine Samaras’… Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct an error in Constantine Samaras’ title. The Pitt News regrets the error.

Students and young people interested in environmental activism should write to publications and expand their news sources, a local congressman said tonight at a panel event on campus.

Sustainability, technology and involvement were main topics of discussion last night at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, when the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition, an effort between Free the Planet, the Blue Green Alliance at Pitt and the Sierra Student Coalition, presented “Rustbelt Renewal: A Town Hall Forum on the Promise of a Clean Energy Economy” to about 50 attendees last night.

The event, which dealt with global warming and energy resources, featured four panelists: Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), 14th District of Pa.; Patrick McMahon, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85; Constantine Samaras of Carnegie Mellon University; and Bob Wallace of Penn State University.

Each panelist presented a brief introductory speech before two student speakers asked questions that were submitted by students online. The diverse panelists made their roles and differences apparent in their speeches. Doyle discussed how he worked to put together the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and how it has still not passed through the Senate.

Samaras, a RAND Corporation energy and climate analyst and adjunct assistant professor of engineering and public policy at CMU, focused on the scientific aspect of energy and sustainability. McMahon represented transit labor, and he discussed the benefits of mass transit — particularly, hybrid buses and electric rail systems.

Wallace, the executive director of Penn State’s BioEnergy Bridge, concentrated on new, cleaner resources and forms of energy. The BioEnergy Bridge is an organization aimed to promote sustainable power, fuels and products through assistance for industry and entrepreneurial businesses, according to the group’s website.

One person who submitted a question asked how students and young people can take action.

“I’d like to see more involvement,” Congressman Doyle said. “I’m here because you’re here.”

He encouraged a “grassroots swelling of support.” He said those who want to get involved should write letters to editors of publications and expand the sources from which they receive their news.

Seth Bush, a sophomore computer engineering major at Pitt and member of the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition, helped organize the event. He said he was pleased with the presentation.

“I was really impressed with all the speakers,” he said. “It’s really important to stir up some passion.”

McMahon felt satisfied as well.

“It’s good to see youth getting out, getting involved and getting educated,” he said.

Doyle said the turnout was impressive, considering the poor weather.

“I try to always say ‘yes’ to these kinds of things,” he said. “It’s important to see what the youth has to say.”