The Sierra Club and the Steelworkers didn’t just show up across Ohio recently to promote the new Blue/Green Alliance, we showed up in the newspaper business pages almost everywhere we went. I took part, on behalf of the Sierra Club, in a late June barnstorm from Cincinnati to Cleveland in support of new jobs, renewable energy, clean technologies, and fair trade policies. We received a surprisingly enthusiastic response from the media, even from conservative talk radio. Here are some of the highlights:
CINCINNATI—Dave Foster, a former Steelworkers regional director who’s now chairing the Blue/Green Alliance, and I rise early for three live morning radio interviews, including a half-hour interview on the Mike McConnell Show. He’s known as the Rush Limbaugh of the heartland, and his right-wing talk show is highly rated all across the Midwest. We emphasized that fair trade policies and a push for renewable energy will save taxpayers money and reduce energy costs, and McConnell seemed surprisingly sympathetic, although shockingly skeptical about global warming. Next we joined Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, above right, for a terrific press conference where he signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement—he’s mayor number 251—and joined the Sierra Club’s “Cool Cities” program to start lowering Cincinnati’s global warming emissions. This was my first press conference ever in a gymnasium—a very high-tech gym on the second floor of the remarkable new Rec Center at the University of Cincinnati campus. It’s the region’s first LEED-certified green building, and we were joined by a designer who touted some of its innovative features, like collecting rainwater from the roof for irrigating nearby community gardens.
All four local TV network affiliates showed up with camera crews, and the 5 and 11 o’clock news broadcasts were saturated with our positive, solution-oriented message.
Dave and I also spent a cordial hour with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer and business reporter Mike Boyer. The next morning’s front page headline in the business section read “Greener Ohio Could Cash In”—this was the first of many outstanding print articles generated throughout the trip, mostly in the business section.
In the evening we were hosted by International Relations Professor James Buchanan of Xavier University for a Chataqua-like roundtable dinner discussion at his Brueggerman Center For Dialogue, with a dozen or so community leaders. We talked about trade and energy, and then joined almost 100 others, mostly Sierra Club members at the Town Hall Meeting at Xavier's Cintas Center. We also talked with a reporter from Cinci's City Beat weekly paper which did a fabulous story and summary of our tour in the following week's paper.
DAYTON—?The highlights on this stop included being chauffeured around town in local Sierra Club leader Dave Brown’s Honda Insight, one of the best designed hybrid cars ever, and meeting with Montgomery County officials who touted the city’s new solar energy and wind energy pilot program at Madison Park. The local officials also showed us how they cool city and county public buildings by using the extensive and cool underground aquifer that underlies Ohio’s Miami Valley.
Dayton’s Mayor McLin was one of the very early signers of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement—she joined almost two years back. Since then, some of the old electric trolleys have been restored, lowering that city’s public transit emissions. We also had a good discussion with the editorial board and writers at the Dayton Business Journal, which ran a front page story the following day.
Outside Dayton, in Springfield, we toured the factory of James Leffel & Company, which manufactures steel turbines using local materials and labor. The turbines help capture wasted energy from cooling towers at large utilities. We also learned about a local Montgomery County farmer who has installed four large windmills on his farm, and we shared that story and the potential for using wind energy to help stabilize Ohio’s farm economy on conservative talk radio.
COLUMBUS—?The historic statehouse served as backdrop for our Columbus press conference, where State Senator Dan Stewart and other officials joined us to highlight, among other accomplishments, Columbus’ restoration of the Lazarus Building as the newest LEED-certified green public building in central Ohio. We had some frank discussions with the Ohio Free Press, including its editorial board and founder Harvey Wasserman, who probably knows more about wind energy than anyone in the Midwest. (Keep an eye out for Harvey’s new book Solartopia, which documents how we can power our entire electric grid with solar energy in the next dozen years.)
CLEVELAND—?One of the most well-attended and stimulating events of the week was our breakfast town hall meeting at a large labor hall in Cleveland, where Steelworkers and Sierra Clubbers came out in force for a healthy discussion on how our nation’s bankrupt trade policy has helped decimate the region’s jobs, and polluted the local air and water.
?We lamented that our “free trade” policy wasn’t just exporting Ohio jobs, but sending them to places in the third world that have a combination of the worst environmental protections (or none at all) and the lowest wages. We discussed how to spread the word about reversing course by setting up “fair trade” agreements—with enforceable labor and environmental standards—and using renewable energy and clean technology innovations to bring jobs back to Cleveland.
That morning's Cleveland Plain Dealer had a huge photo and headline on the front page of the Business Section: "COMMON GROUND--United Steelwokers, Sierra Club unite for good jobs, safety, clean environment," complete with a big color photo of a large wind turbine. The article could have been written by our own media team:
"...Yes, it’s true, the country's biggest manufacturing union and biggest environmental group are joining forces to combat what they say is mounting damage from globalization of the economy and global climate change...the 850,000-member Steelworkers and the 750,000-member Sierra Club say their Blue/Green Alliance will fight for energy independence, fair trade and toxic pollution reduction at U.S. factories.... "
?The tour wrapped up with a press conference on the lawn in front of the large new wind turbines on Cleveland’s rejuvenated lakefront. It’s wedged in between the Cleveland Science Center, the world-renowned Rock-N-Roll Museum and Hall of Fame, and the new Browns football stadium. During the press conference we were joined by Mayor Georgine Welo of South Euclid, who signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement—mayor number 252.
?Then Andrew Watterson, Cleveland’s Sustainability Programs Manager—every city should have one—announced that on July 3, Cleveland’s Mayor Frank Jackson would become the 253rd mayor to sign the pact, and would also make Cleveland a “Cool City,” with commitments to start mapping out a plan to greatly reduce its global warming emissions. Cleveland has already purchased 32 hybrid vehicles for its municipal fleet.
We also did radio interviews and other press events in Akron, Toledo, Youngstown and Canton. It seems as if we're on to something big.
Thanks for the great media coverage go to Margrete Strand and Susan Knight of our Trade team, who were with us on the tour, and Ginny Cramer, a wonderful new member of the Club's media team in D.C.
For more on the Blue/Green Alliance, see Carl Pope's blog entry on the announcment of the alliance.
For more on Cool Cities, go to sierraclub.org/coolcities.
For more on the Sierra Club’s Smart Energy Summer, see sierraclub.org/energysummer.
For a complete report of the tour, go to sierraclub.org/trade/bluegreen/.