The Talk on Renewable Energy Economy and Climate Action: Join the Path to a Sustainable Future

May 2, 2017 / By: Tove Lilith Conway '19


The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Humans are 140 thousand years old. In a different perspective: what if Earth’s age was condensed to a 24-hour day? How old would humans be compared to Earth now? Well…humans would be 3 seconds old. A St. Thomas student opened the talk with this statistic from the poem, “MAN vs. EARTH.” Next, Michael Noble, the Executive Director of Fresh Energy, presented St. Thomas students with his talk on how we can be involved with climate action and a pathway to a sustainable future. The St. Thomas students and faculty sat on the edge of their seats to understand how we have done so much destruction in just three seconds on Earth and how together is the only way we will make it to the fourth second.

Noble warned us that he would say some depressing statistics about our world, but that he would always return to optimism.  Starting in optimism, he mentions that Fresh Energy ( is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, 2017. Noble describes his role in the non-profit company as an “organizer of ideas, philanthropy, and organizations.” Fresh Energy’s mission is to “shape and drive realistic, visionary energy policies that benefit all.” They add, “Together we are working toward a vision for an economy we thrive in and energy that ensures our well-being.” So how does the economy connect to the environment?

Noble mentioned that a lot of people come up to him and ask about the “green stuff” and the “carbon problem.” He tells them in Minnesota we spend 2.1 billion dollars a year on fossil fuels and that one-third of the carbon dioxide will permanently stay in the air 100 years from now. However, on an optimistic level, there has been a 78% job increase in solar power, wind power, and other sustainable jobs. Additionally, companies such as Nike, Wal-Mart, Nestle, Wells Fargo and many more have joined the 100% Renewable Energy Club.  Noble also mentioned how this is possible for companies because energy forms such as LED lights, solar panels, and wind turbines are more cost effective. LED light prices have decreased 94% since 2009 and sales have increased substantially. This is a 99.5% decrease since 1977, the year Noble graduated from college. The solar panel and wind turbine statistics are included in a table below. The table shows the substantial price decrease in all solar panel and wind turbine energy since 1977. Therefore, the economy is one of the largest factors for a reduction in carbon and a greener future. If companies are on the right path, where do American citizens stand politically and morally?

Energy type:





$77 (per watt)



36¢ (per watt)



55¢ (per kilowatt)



2¢ (per kilowatt)


Climate change is humankind’s problem and an incredibly urgent problem. Since 1880, the years that have had the hottest recorded temperatures have been 2014, 2015, and 2016. In fact, these three years “smashed the record,” according to Noble. Additionally, in 1974 (year of the first Earth day), 80% of Americans considered themselves environmentalists. Today, in 2017, this number has dropped to 14%. These two statistics revealed a relationship between the American mindset and climate change—climate change is real, etched into the facts, and at our front doors, yet significantly less Americans identify as environmentalists. Does the American mindset influence how politics prioritizes climate action?

When we ask why politics are not focused on the environment or there is a denial of climate change, we must first hold a mirror up to ourselves: Are we, as the young population, telling the politicians what we want and believe? Are we aware of the facts that Noble speaks of? Maybe, but it is up to us to put it on the agenda. Noble explained that on average only 20% of young people, including college students, vote. Power rests in our vote and in our voice. Following his presentation, the audience broke into small groups for discussion. We discussed how our voice can strengthen with more knowledge on how easily we can be involved with climate change and how we can help others to walk on the sustainable path. Then, together as a unified voice, we can help our beautiful world make it to the fourth second before it’s too late.