Will Wynn

Will Wynn, former mayor of Austin, moderates a panel presented by the Campus Environmental Center to discuss issues of sustainability and environmental policy at the Texas Union Theatre on Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Hoping to advance environmental policy and sustainability awareness, experts discussed the relationship between climate change and economics at a panel Wednesday evening.

The Campus Environmental Center, the only UT-sponsored environmental student-run organization, hosted “Climate Change in Texas: Risks and Opportunities,” featuring former Austin Mayor Will Wynn.

As chairman on the Board of Directors of Austin Energy for nine years, Wynn said he has seen the momentum of climate change and global warming fluctuate. Wynn also highlighted the dichotomy between Texas as the worst carbon-emitting state and yet the state that offers the most renewable energy, attributable to wind power.

“There’s a revenue source for some land out in West Texas that wasn’t particularly profitable otherwise,” Wynn said. “That’s a good example, though. You can make an economic argument, set aside the environmental debate and show somebody how it’s beneficial economically. That’s really [what] the big opportunity and challenge is for in Texas — to figure out and sell the economic benefits of environmental protection and just know it in our heart that we're also helping the environment.”

Others on the panel included Ramon Alvarez, senior scientist at the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund; Zach Baumer, climate program manager for the city of Austin; and Kerry Cook, professor at the department of geological sciences.

Cook said by 2050, Austin’s climate will increase by three degrees Fahrenheit and precipitation will decrease by 10 percent in the winter and 15 percent in the summer.

“We have a huge challenge in front of us to perform interdisciplinary research when we have different jargon, different ways of approaching and different ways of thinking about this,” Cook said. “We are trying to educate the next generation of scientists more broadly so they can all communicate effectively.”

Collin Poirot, political communication, Plan II honors and history senior and assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the importance of this discussion is highlighted by the fact that people don’t know what to believe.

“Adapting to climate change means that you have to make some changes, it doesn’t mean you have to lose money or shut down your business,” Poirot said. “It just means you have to change the way you go about your business, and people don’t want to have to do that.”

Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2013 as Panel hopes to raise citizen involvement 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell speaks to media during his campaign kickoff, Saturday evening.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Mayor Lee Leffingwell launched his re-election campaign with an homage to his favorite movie, “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.”

The Leffingwell campaign hosted a kickoff party Saturday night. The party included free beer and food provided by Austin Barbecue Company, live music and a showing of “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” provided by the Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow. The mayor was present at the event to visit with supporters.

“I just want to give everyone a chance to come out and meet me and see what my campaign is all about and have a good time while doing it,” Leffingwell said.

Many supporters were invited to the kickoff party through a two-minute campaign video reenacting the opening scene of “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.” Leffingwell played Ferris, former mayor Will Wynn played Ferris' best friend Cameron and city councilman Chris Riley played a student gossiping about Ferris' absence from class.

“I never thought I had much acting talent and I’m still not so sure I do, but people seem to like it,” Leffingwell said.

Leffingwell's campaign manager J.D. Gins said people have responded the most to a scene in which Leffingwell lip-synchs to Wayne Newton's “Danke Schoen” in the shower with his hair spiked in a mohawk.

“I just want to make it clear that I was wearing my swimsuit,” Leffingwell said. “I don't trust those guys [on my team] that much.”

After two weeks online, the video now has more than 10,000 views, Leffingwell said.

Gins said Wynn was in the video because he and Leffingwell are good friends and the video was a way to show their friendship as well as Wynn's political support for Leffingwell.

“We thought it would be funny to play the friendship of Lee and Will off the friendship of Ferris and Cameron,” Gins said. “It was a good way to be funny and still show an actual endorsement.”

Gins said councilman Riley was the only council member with an opportunity in his schedule to film and also because the mayor's opponents have been attempting to win Riley's support.

Riley said he thinks the mayor has done a great job in office so when he was asked to act in the video, he was excited to help Leffingwell's campaign. He said he only wishes he was a better actor.

“I've watched it back a few times and I really feel like I could have done more to capture the valley girl persona,” Riley said. “I could have done some hand motions and done more with my voice, but I just wasn't exactly sure what they wanted right then.”

Gins said he hopes the video will receive attention from younger voters and get them interested in voting in local elections. Gins said University Democrats endorsed Leffingwell in the last mayoral election and he hopes to win their support in this election.

UDems communications director Andre Treiber said the group has not made an endorsement yet, but they think the video is a hilarious and clever way to appeal to potential voters.

“We've all enjoyed the video and think it’s a great way to engage people that are typically apolitical,” Treiber said.