The G8 summit made a commitment to develop new forms of energy like solar and wind. It wasn’t enough for Jerry Greenfield, founder of Ben & Jerrys ice cream. He talked to Off-Grids Sarah Ewing about the US avoiding its responsibilities and what he intends to do about it.
Q: What gets you really fired up about the way the environment is dealt with by governments?
A: In the United States, it has to be the refusal of our government to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The US is the world’s largest polluter and 75% of our carbon dioxide emissions are created from the burning of fossil fuel. With no serious commitment to reducing our emissions, then what hope is there for future generations?
Q: What do you think are the biggest environmental problems we are facing right now?
A: Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest environmental problem we’re facing. Given current rates of warming, scientists fear that there may be no sea ice left during the Arctic summer by the year 2100 and the effect this will have on populations and wildlife will be irreversible. Unless we cut CO2 emissions drastically, we could see a very rapid meltdown occurring over areas like Greenland that could cause the global sea level to rise by seven metres. I’ve just been to Greenland for the launch of our Climate Change College and what is going on over there is scary. Global warming and the meltdown of the polar ice caps will ultimately affect people and communities the world over.
Q: So what are the biggest obstacles to solving them?
A: Education is key to helping us protect our planet for future generations. So much of the early enthusiasm for green issues that we experienced in the 1980s is waning. We need to empower future generations to challenge the way businesses and individuals impact the environment.
Q: When and why did you decide to set up the Climate Change College?
A: The Climate Change College was launched this April and is a joint project between Ben & Jerry’s, the polar explorer Marc Cornelissen, and the WWF. With the college, we wanted to find a way to educate young people to become climate change ambassadors for the future and through the college, give them the practical skills to fight climate change, and prevent the polar ice caps from further melting. The college has a roving venue with the students attending courses at the WWF and even a field trip to the Arctic where they can see the effects of climate change first hand.
Q: When did you originally become so concerned so concerned about environmental issues?
A: Environmental issues have always been very important to me. Ben and I set up our company on the belief that business has a responsibility to give back to the community. The very nature of the ice cream industry means that vast amounts of power are necessary to keep our products frozen. We now use non-polluting green energy (CO2 neutral renewable energy sourced from wind, sun, water or biomass) in our manufacturing operations. We’re also looking at thermoacoustic refrigeration, a cooling technology that uses sound waves instead of greenhouse-gas emitting refrigerants.
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