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Green Power: 30 People Changing the Environment in Washington
Comments () | Published April 1, 2008
Every other month, Mike Tidwell—whose Takoma Park home features a corn-kernel stove and solar panels—has an open house where the public can learn ways to lead a lower-carbon lifestyle. Photograph courtesy of Mike Tidwell.

Mike Tidwell, 46: Writer and activist

“The debate on global warming is over.”

Every other month, Mike Tidwell, who founded Chesapeake Climate Action Network—a leading voice on the local impact of global warming—opens up his Takoma Park home to the public, teaching guests about his low-carbon lifestyle.

What is a low-carbon lifestyle? I generate a fraction of the greenhouse gases produced by the average American. I heat my house with a corn-kernel stove. I power my house with solar panels. I walk or take Metro or drive a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon. I’m a vegetarian; when you stop eating meat, you reduce the amount of CO2 in the air. Meat production is very energy-intensive.

Why do you think, as you’ve said, that some people think global warming is a hoax? It’s denial. When you let the reality of climate change fully in, there’s a whole host of moral responsibilities.

How could global warming impact the Washington region? The EPA says top Maryland agriculture yields will drop by 40 percent because of shifting precipitation patterns. The Potomac River is going to get a foot of sea-level rise. Something really big is coming.

Stephanie Reynolds is working to increase the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay. Photograph by Vincent Ricardel.

Stephanie Reynolds, 38: Oyster wrangler

“Sometimes I’m in a business suit. Other days I’m in a wetsuit.”

Reynolds is a fisheries scientist and lobbyist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The bay lost much of its oyster population in the past two decades as a result of increasingly poor water quality. Thanks to Reynolds—and her army of volunteers—10 million oysters are now thriving in the Maryland part of the bay.

Oysters taste good, but why else are you trying to bring them back? The population today is about 4 percent of its historic level. Oysters are important because they filter pollutants and their reef structure serves as habitat for other species. They’re the bay’s best natural filter.

Are they hard to farm? If you have a well-selected site, oysters do quite well. I was in the bay this morning pulling up some oysters that we planted last year, and they looked terrific. But they’re not spawning on their own and making a baywide difference in the population.

Why not? It’s funding. It’s political will. We don’t have enough reefs to make a difference. It’s very expensive and labor-intensive.

What are you proudest of? We have hundreds of people in Maryland and Virginia who serve as oyster foster parents. We give them oysters when they’re a few months old, and they keep them in cages for a year and tend them. Then they bring them back and we plant them on the oyster reefs.

What’s the best part of your day? Being on the bay. I grew up sailing here, and I love this body of water. I really believe it can get better.

David Friedman, 37: Engineer

“Our cars and trucks produce as much global-warming pollution as the entire economy of India.”

Friedman, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, has developed a prototype for an SUV that gets about 35 miles a gallon.

If it’s possible to have a fuel-efficient SUV, why haven’t automakers developed one? Why weren’t there seat belts in cars? Why weren’t there air bags? They were all technologies that science showed could save lives. It took the government to step in and require those changes.

What differences in an SUV’s design are necessary for fuel efficiency? None. It would cost more up front, but you’d have the same size, the same acceleration, better safety. This isn’t rocket science; this is auto mechanics. We have the technology to dramatically improve the fuel economy of cars and trucks.

What’s been your greatest achievement? I helped get tax credits for hybrids passed. It puts a smile on my face when I hear someone talking about how they saved a couple thousand dollars because of that.

What do you drive? A Honda Civic HX. I get about 38 miles a gallon. Every couple of years, we rank automakers. Honda is consistently the greenest.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 04/01/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles