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Singer Takes up Global Warming Fight

by: Howie Magner    3 December 2006

Her music is country. Her message is the world.

Kathy Mattea, a fixture on the country music scene for 20 years, embarked on a new phase of her career Saturday morning at Lakeview High School. She gave her first public presentation of "An Inconvenient Truth," the slide show about global warming made famous by former Vice President Al Gore's book and movie of the same title.

Perhaps the most telling moment of Mattea's new start was how she ended it.

An audience of some 250 people was viewing a picture of Earth snapped by the Voyager I spacecraft from the edge of the solar system. What they saw was a pinprick of light just barely distinguishable in the grainy image.

"That's our home," Mattea said of the tiny speck, her voice choking up with emotion. "That's why this is so important."

Mattea's 90-minute presentation was important enough to draw several politicians from the city, county and state levels. State senator Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, spoke a few words before ceding the stage to Mattea, and U.S. Rep. Joe Schwartz, R-Battle Creek, also was in attendance.

"It's become a nonpartisan issue, global warming," said Scott Durham, chairman of the Calhoun County Republican Party. "Hopefully, at some point both Republicans and Democrats, citizens of this community and citizens of the world can come together. The issue is too important for us to not address it."

Mattea's presentation addressed it with a wealth of scientific data, images of disappearing glaciers and graphs charting the stark increase in global temperatures and natural disasters in recent years.

Some of the more powerful imagery showed what would happen to various geographical areas if global sea levels rise as a result of melting ice shelves. Audience members saw parts of China, India, southern Florida and New York City gradually engulfed by water, including the proposed World Trade Center memorial site.

Mattea wrapped up her presentation by telling the audience what they could do as individuals to combat global warming, including things as simple as changing a light bulb.

If every American household swapped one of its conventional bulbs for a more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb, Mattea said, the reduction in carbon emissions would equal the removal of nearly a million cars from the road.

Just 12 hours after singing at a concert in Kalamazoo, Mattea peppered her presentation with comments about her own moments of discovery, the kind that prompted her to become one of the "Inconvenient Truth" presenters. She's one of 50 people recently trained in the material by Gore and a global warming scientist, and there are plans to train 1,000 presenters.

In a interview prior to her slide show, Mattea addressed the issue of those who doubt the dangers of global warming.

"The only thing I can do is try to show the facts and what happened for me, hope that I can reach the next person and wake someone else up," Mattea said. "And that person will wake someone else up. When enough people wake up, it takes on a momentum of its own.

"It's a choice that we make between focusing on the skeptics and trying to change them or just trying to spread the word, spread the light to those who can hear," she continued. "Somebody said that glaciers don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican or a communist or a capitalist. They melt when they melt."

Mattea's message seemed to hit home with those who listened on Saturday.

"People need to start paying attention because this is what we have left. If we keep abusing it, we're not gonna have it," said 51-year-old Ray Hayes of Battle Creek. "The facts are there. We can't keep putting it off any more."

The presentation was taped by Access Vision and will be televised at a later date. Also, the Battle Creek Community Foundation plans on holding a meeting sometime in January of 2007 to discuss specific steps the community can take with regards to global warming.

"Our job is to support the interests of citizens, so we've promised to convene (a meeting) to see how our citizens want to address this," said Brenda Hunt, the foundation's president and CEO.

Generating that type of action, Mattea said, is her ultimate goal.

"My favorite part is spreading a word of hope," Mattea said. "Even the tiniest actions count. If you take one action, you have become part of the solution."