Penticton energy symposium heralds Age of Aquarius

A coterie of Okanagan grandparents spur their community to face the future by embracing clean energy. Photo by Dianne Bersea.

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Brita Park, retired teacher, orchardist and FTFO education committee chair found student interactions surprising. “As a teacher, the expected ‘cool’ standoffishness of teenage students was largely replaced by engagement. I saw students interacting with each other, engaging on the issues. That’s very inspiring.”

Penticton High student and energy event organizer Victoria Richie was heard to enthuse, “This is going way better than expected!”

At the full-scale Saturday event I also noted student volunteers directing participants to speaker rooms and amenities. One student saved the day when a video clip refused to load. According to one attendee, “Us older folk were mesmerized by this young woman who just went up, clicked away for a moment and there was the video!”

What did I do at the Energy Symposium? I chatted with inventor, Glen Chernow of Aurora Wind Energy, “I’m an oil and gas guy,” one of those who recognizes signs of change and is already on it with his portable light trailer. 

The combination of solar panels and mast mounted wind turbine with a small but powerful battery component makes good sense…an off-grid, net zero system that Chernow claims will charge in overcast and winds as light as 5 – 7 km…applicable anywhere a portable light system with off-site wi-fi control, would be needed.

George Smith, second from left, and his Alliance 4 Democracy buddies captured attention at Penticton’s Earth Day Energy Symposium with White Elephant comment on Site C Dam energy project. Photo by Dianee Bersea.

Then there were the Alliance 4 Democracy guys who trekked from Vancouver to display their ten-foot high, 3-D elephant and Stop Site C dam message. According to A4D spokesman, George Smith, “It’s foolhardy to go forward with Site C on BC’s Peace River, eliminating the capital and agricultural land that could feed a million people a year, and then sell the power at 25% of production cost.”

As their sign says “White Elephant: noun meaning a useless possession, expensive to maintain.”

Another attraction, the non-fossil fuel car display. Should I have been surprised that the Energy Symposium could easily field a half dozen electrics and one bio fuel vehicle for an exhibit? Evidently not, though I was curious about where cars can charge up. 

Steve Brown, with a year of e-vehicle ownership behind him, reminded me that e-vehicles can be charged at home but there are lots of places to juice up. He tapped his phone to call up a map of at least six charging stations in the Penticton area.

How much for an electrical top-up? “It’s often free,” Nissan electric lessee and e-car enthusiast, Grant Evans, tells me. “It’s an amenity. Hotels, motels, businesses with an eye on increasing their traffic offer a free charge.” That too, makes perfect sense.

Overall, I scrambled to catch what I thought might be the most enlightening presentations, but with twenty-one presenters and more that forty exhibitors, I ended up learning almost as much from the attendees.

Frozen in a moment of indecision about which presentation to attend next, I felt the energy of FTFO conference attendee, organizer and nature conservationist, Margaret Holm, moving rapidly toward me. 

“That, blew my mind!” she gasped. Obviously Mike Simpson’s talk Clean Energy and the Plan to Transform the World had hit its mark. “I just realized we must look at the big picture. We can’t continue to work on individual pieces; we need to work on the whole thing! Everything is interrelated.”

Margaret said the same theme came out of Geoff Dembicki’s presentation, Building Political Will for Climate Solutions. “Climate Change is a function of our current market system. We need to think and act beyond that, perhaps even beyond political parties.”

When Margaret went on to say, “This has an impact on my whole life!” I needed more explanation. “All my life I’ve been working on pieces of the puzzle via nature conservation. I felt I didn’t have time to deal with the larger issues.

“Now I recognize the intrinsic links to general sustainability. Geoff mentioned that only 5 to 10% of us are truly passionate, but we all need to get in the faces of those who make the decisions. Advocacy is where we need to go now.”

That’s quite the outcome for a retired B.C. politician, a retired scientist and a third generation orchardist on the road to the Age of Aquarius. 

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