Sierra Club stories from the front lines

Taking Climate Action in Knoxville

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Upward of 400 people attended portions of Climate Knoxville Action, a community event at Knoxville's Market Square on July 12 to build support for the EPA's Clean Power Plan and the City of Knoxville's energy-efficiency and green jobs programs in low-income neighborhoods. That's Tenneseee-based Sierra Club organizer Chris Ann Lunghino, above, tabling at the event. Below, activists with Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED), a partner group.

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The event was hosted by Climate Knoxville, a coalition of environmental, faith-based, social justice and economic groups, University of Tennessee students and faculty, small businesses, and renewable energy companies. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign and Tennessee Chapter were founding members of the coalition, which formed in 2013 to promote policies to combat climate disruption.

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Bands, comedians, and speakers gathered with groups from across the region to support meaningful, concrete steps to combat climate disruption.

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"The Beyond Coal campaign presented its vision of a 100 percent clean energy future and informed the crowd about the role power plants play in causing climate change, as well as the economic, health, and climate benefits of the EPA's Clean Power Plan," Lunghino says.

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Guest speakers included Sierra Club activists, local elected officials from the Knoxville area, staff from the City of Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and representatives from Climate Knoxville.

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Tennessee Chapter volunteer leader and Climate Knoxville coordinator Louise Gorenflo, below at right, told the crowd that the day was about organizations cooperating to make a difference. She said the EPA's new carbon rule was an effective policy to get behind and support, and she stressed that combatting climate change is a moral issue.

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"The idea for the larger organization started last fall when such groups as Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light met with the Sierra Club and SEEED," Gorenflo says. "The seed was planted when we got together just to talk about how to respond to everything going on, and we found a supportive ally in the city of Knoxville."

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Climate Knoxville collected over 100 postcards signed by attendees supporting the Clean Power Plan and Knoxville's clean energy efforts. "The Beyond Coal campaign also recruited over 30 new volunteers and signed up 20 activists to attend the EPA's Clean Power Plan regional hearing in Atlanta on July 29-30," Lunghino says.

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Prior to the event, the Knoxville News Sentinel ran feature stories on Climate Knoxville, an op-ed by Louise Gorenflo on the importance of acting on climate disruption, and two letters-to-the-editor backing the Clean Power Plan and inviting people to Climate Knoxville Action. Community Shares, a local public television program, also ran segments promoting the event and interviewed Climate Knoxville partners in the weeks leading up to the event.

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"Louise deserves the lion's share of credit for creating Climate Knoxville and helping ensure the July 12 event was such a success," says Lunghino. "Louise is driven to take on climate change and help those most affected by it." Lunghino also gives a shout-out to chapter conservation chair Axel Ringe, below at left-center, next to Sierra Club table, for helping recruit members and speaking at the event about the urgency of taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption.

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