On Thursday, November 16, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow hosted what was deemed “The Event of the Year.” CFACT hosted Bill Gilles at Akerman Hall to host a talk on clean energy and climate change and handed out free root beer floats for the organization's event, “Root Beer Floats with Bill.” The event was funded by student service fees.
The event was heavily anticipated among conservative groups on campus, drawing interest on Facebook, and was talked about throughout campus the week leading up to the event. A few days before the event, former CFACT president John Mickley stated, “It's finally here. The event that my 4 years with CFACT has been leading up to.”
Before the event started, CFACT handed out free root beer floats to the event attendees and promoted future CFACT events. Turnout at the event was slightly disappointing, but large portions of the room in which Gilles spoke were filled with students eager to hear his wise words. More students arrived throughout the presentation.
Gilles began his presentation by discussing the history of American environmentalism. He compared the ideologies of environmentalist John Muir and the head of the National Forest Service under President Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot. Gilles stated that Muir had an ideology that revolved around preservation, while Pinchot’s ideology revolved around conservation.
Gilles aimed to examine the difference between how the two quotes broke down the differing ideologies not only between Muir and Pinchot, but also the differing ideologies that still exist in modern conservation and environmental movements. Gilles claimed that modern environmentalism shifted towards Muir’s preservation mindset as opposed to Pinchot’s conservation mindset.
Gilles questioned why U.S. culture would have interest in preservation, because he claimed modern-day preservation efforts mimicked socialism and were short-sighted. He stated preservation was to protect nature from the “inherent evils of man,” but he said conservation is more effective as “Man and nature have a co-dependent relationship.”
Gilles further examined this by discussing the pros and cons of coal and solar energy. Gilles claimed that coal was not only cheaper than solar energy, but also more efficient. He stated that coal energy can be produced in small areas of land, while solar takes massive amounts of land to produce even a fraction of the energy coal produces. He claimed that while solar energy is eco-friendly, it is not nearly as efficient and sustainable as energy produced from coal, and solar energy fails to promote the co-dependence of nature and man.
Gilles was unable to make this seemingly unpopular declaration without feedback from the event’s audience. Multiple attendees raised their hands to question whether coal’s efficiency was ultimately reason enough to rationalize hesitation in the U.S. movement towards clean energy. Gilles responded by stating nuclear energy could be a possible compromise for Americans until more research is done on clean energy.
Gilles finished his presentation by reverting to discussing preservation vs. conservation in modern times. He concluded by asserting forcefully that conservation is more relevant to the United States today than is preservation and concluded that society needs to be more careful about shifting to clean energy because of clean energy’s lack of efficiency. When Gilles finished speaking, audience members were invited to grab another root beer float and ask Gilles individual questions. Attendees left the room with root beer floats in hand and a new perspective on American conservation.