Rallying retirees: Residents form BridgePoint Consortium to combat climate change

Courtesy of Larry Partain
The BridgePoint Consortium, pictured after an April presentation, includes, front, from left: Larry Partain, Wayne Douglass and Allan Newlands; back: Shirley and Richard Hansen.

When longtime Los Altos resident and retired engineer Larry Partain moved into BridgePoint at Los Altos, a senior living community, he discovered kindred souls who shared his interest in the impacts of climate change.

"There are a lot of unanticipated climate-change effects that could have drastic outcomes," he said.

Partain discovered that other BridgePoint residents shared his concerns, including Shirley and Richard Hansen, Allan Newlands and Wayne Douglass, retired scientists, businessman and technical writer, respectively. Together, they formed the BridgePoint Consortium to educate the public about climate change.

The BridgePoint Consortium model studies the greenhouse effect and the rise in carbon-dioxide emission over a 2,000-year timeframe, showing that the emission was constant or flat until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

According to consortium members, humans have always used some form of energy to survive and thrive. As an example, traditionally, ocean travel on sailing ships was fueled by wind power; after the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels propelled seafaring vessels. Today, much of the energy used by people comes from oil or coal, the burning of which emits greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming.

Moreover, these resources are finite.

"Does our generation have the right to use up everything?" Shirley Hansen asked. "Climate change threatens civilization."

Global warming can lead to droughts, fires and mudslides. Consortium members contended that October’s Santa Rosa fire was due to climate change, as were the December mudslides in Santa Barbara.

The overall rise in temperature is affecting the polar ice caps, BridgePoint Consortium members said, and in Antarctica, two of the largest glaciers have started

to melt.

"Almost every coastal city in the world has to be concerned about global warming and sea level rise," Richard Hansen said. "For instance, Miami will be gone. In San Jose, Highway 101 will be submerged with 3 feet of sea-level rise. What are we leaving our grandchildren?"

How do people change the tide and avoid disaster? Newlands recommended attending candidates’ forums, asking representatives about global warming and contacting state politicians.

"Voting is the ultimate weapon," he said.

Members of the consortium jointly published an article, "Solar Cell and Wind Energy Replacement of Power Plants Globally," presented at the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Washington, D.C., last June. As a team, they make regular presentations to local community groups on the dangers of climate change.

The activists have discovered an outlet not only for their environmental concerns, but also for remaining productive as retirees.

"Some people play golf after retiring and play a lot of bingo," Richard Hansen said. "We, on the other hand, stay involved with climate change and solutions."

Partain concurred.

"You don’t have to stop contributing when you get older," he said. m

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