Cathy Zoi Th’85, CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, stressed the importance of climate change awareness at the Jones Seminar in Spanos Auditorum on Friday.
Zoi, who has two decades of experience in renewable energy and was called a “warrior and hero” of climate change by Rolling Stone magazine in 2006, outlined the Alliance’s plans to make environmental reform a focus for American voters.
“The climate crisis needs deep public support,” Zoi said.
Zoi graduated from the Thayer School of Engineering in 1985 and has spent the last 12 years working on a fellowship to create sustainable energy practices in Australia. Last winter, Zoi was called back to the United States by Al Gore, recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, who asked her to help launch the Alliance.
In her talk, Zoi said that though 82 percent of Americans understand climate change, and 68 percent think that humans are causing it, climate change issues remain a low priority when it comes to voting. One of the goals of the organization is to make sure that global warming becomes an issue in 2008.
Zoi went on to say that she personally believes the issue of climate change to be moral rather than political. Noting that the Alliance’s board contains more Republican than Democratic members, Zoi described the group as “non-partisan.” She also stressed the need for immediate action.
“This is a crisis. It wouldn’t have had to be if we had acted in 1989,” Zoi said. “I wish I could tell you, ‘Oh yeah, I’m being Chicken Little’ — but I’m not.”
Zoi argued that if the United States does not lead the way on climate change, international progress will be impossible.
The Alliance’s strategy will be to focus on a solution for climate change, while making the issue a mainstream concern among Americans. The group is launching a national advertising campaign, hoping to capitalize on strategies that have brought awareness to other causes. Zoi particularly highlighted commercials such as the “Brain on Drugs” campaign as examples of successful advertising.
Other goals include “countering naysayers,” Zoi said, arguing that critics who once contended that climate change does not exist now claim that any solution to climate change will wreck the American economy. After accomplishing these objectives, the organization will go international — an expansion the group hopes to make within three years.
“We want to put ourselves out of business,” Zoi said.
Zoi said that studies have shown that, after scientists, people are most likely to look to their friends for information about climate change. In light of that information, the Alliance is attempting to run a personal grassroots campaign which engages all types of Americans for support, rather than only using advertisements.
In July 2007 the Alliance sponsored the Live Earth concert, where over 150 musical acts performed for 24 hours on all seven continents in order to raise awareness about the issue. While Zoi was proud of the event, she said that it was a lot of work, and placed too much emphasis on the music rather than the environmental issues.
Zoi believes that the Alliance will be able to achieve its goals through global leadership. The group is aiming to create hope about the matter rather than fear, Zoi said, because although the situation may be disheartening to some, she also believes that it is solvable.
The Alliance is a non-profit organization founded by Gore, who now serves as chairman of the board. The organization’s multi-million dollar budget comes from numerous benefactors, including Gore, who recently donated $5 million to the Alliance, a sum that included all of his winnings from the Peace Prize.
“Our mission is to persuade the American people — and people elsewhere in the world ” of the importance and urgency of adopting and implementing effective and comprehensive solutions for the climate crisis,” the website reads.