Local enviro advocates gear up as Trump gears down climate deal

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Although President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement disappointed many environmental advocates in Knoxville, the major setback seems to have boosted rather than deflated their resolve. They are gearing up to raise further awareness about climate change and the efforts needed to slow it.

The Union of Concerned Scientists this week held a kick-off planning session on next moves in Tennessee and strategies for protecting science and clean energy funding. The Union is also offering advocacy training in Tennessee the week of June 26-30, and is accepting invitations to speak at professional or civic group meetings or offer trainings.

This weekend there will be two free screenings of “From the Ashes,” a documentary about the impact of the coal industry on climate change and American communities, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and will have its first broad release June 25 via National Geographic Channel. Here’s the trailer.

The first screening will be Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church sanctuary at 2931 Kingston Pike, sponsored by the Harvey Broome Group of the Sierra Club, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Knoxville People’s Climate Movement. This screening will also feature a panel discussion with Dr. Mary Headrick, a retired emergency room physician; Shelby Ward, a staff attorney at Tennessee Clean Water Network; and Axel Ringe, conservation chair for the Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club.

A second screening will be held Sunday at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge fellowship hall at 1051 Oak Ridge Turnpike.

If you missed its presentation at the Knoxville People’s Climate Teach-In in April, Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light will be offering a webinar on “Hard Facts About Climate Change” June 14 at 7 p.m. detailing the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, which was signed by almost 200 countries, including major developing countries like China and India. Those interested in participating in the webinar can register here.

The day after Trump’s announcement, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero vowed to maintain Knoxville’s commitment to meeting the Paris Climate Agreement anyway. Rogero was the fifth signatory (ahead of the mayors of Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta) to a letter from the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda promising to uphold the Paris Agreement in their cities. In the last week, more than 200 mayors have signed on, including the mayors of Tennessee’s other largest cities. Monday the effort expanded to a “We Are Still In” movement in which more than 1,200 people and institutions –not only mayors but governors, major investors, businesses and colleges – signed a pledge that “we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.”

Rogero noted that Knoxville is on track to meet its goal of reducing emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and adds that the city will exceed the goal by replacing all the city’s street lights with LED lights this year.

“Protecting the climate is not a choice between our environment and our economy,” Rogero said in a prepared statement. “As we have shown in Knoxville, we can strengthen both while making Knoxville a better community.”

S. Heather Duncan has won numerous awards for her feature writing and coverage of the environment, government, education, business and local history during her 15-year reporting career. Originally from Western North Carolina, Heather has worked for Radio Free Europe, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, and several daily newspapers. Heather spent almost a dozen years at The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., where she spent most of her time covering the environment or writing project-investigations that provoked changes such as new laws related to day care and the protection of environmentally-sensitive lands. You can reach Heather at heather@knoxmercury.com

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