(This piece was originally published on October 1, 2017 in the Flyer Group.)

For the first time, Greening the Statehouse will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds. This is the organization’s 10th annual meeting, and admission ranges from $10 to $25.

“This is the largest gathering of environmentally minded Hoosiers each year,” Hoosier Environmental Council Director Jesse Kharbanda said of Greening the Statehouse. “It draws people from all across the state from different political backgrounds who are interested in finding solutions for protecting the environment.”

Kharbanda said this year’s event is special.

“Not just because it’s the 10th, but because the public is now wondering if we’re backtracking on maintaining environmental issues for a sustainable economy,” he said. “As a means of addressing that concern we are bringing in one of the most prominent conservatives working to protect the environment.”

That person is Mitch Hescox, who will be the guest speaker. Hescox spent his early years in the fossil fuel industry, but has since become one of the nation’s leading conservative promoters for environmental activism. He is the head of the Evangelical Environmental Network and speaks regularly on renewable energy, clear air and clean water policies.

“The way that we’re thinking about it is that in order to make real significant change to protect the environment, we have to make sure we’re engaging people across the political spectrum,” Kharbanda said. “At its peak in the ’70s, there was huge bipartisan support in congress, and that’s why the Clean Air Act was passed unanimously. It has now become a divisive issue, and it shouldn’t be. Whatever your politics are, there’s a basis for wanting to protect the environment.”

Greening the Statehouse intends to provide attendees with a sense of Indiana’s environmental landscape over the previous year.

“But we’ll also be sharing what it is we see for the future,” Kharbanda said. “This is different from prior years in that we’re putting more of an emphasis on the tools that people can acquire to be able to make a difference in their communities.”

Attendees will learn more about engaging in meaningful relationships with their elected officials that ultimately leads to progress for the environment.

Kharbanda describes the Hoosier Environmental Council as a big tent organization that seeks to engage people from every part of the state. As a result, both large statewide and smaller local organizations will be represented on Dec. 2.

Lectures will be presented and informational booths will also be stationed throughout the event area. Groups with a localized emphasis will be present and groups focusing on a variety of different issues such as renewable energy, environmentalism and agriculture, forestry and environmental justice will be available to answer questions.

“But the real centerpiece of the day will be all about people getting trained on how they can be more effective advocates for their community,” Kharbanda said. “People will come away feeling inspired and empowered with new tools to make them more successful in bringing positive change to their communities.”

Kharbanda said there are many elected officials who are taking up the mantle of responsibility locally. Mayors in North Vernon and Bloomington have championed ordinances that have utilized solar energy for much or all of their respective towns; Fort Wayne now has safer waste water treatment and Indianapolis has electrified much of the city’s automotive fleet.

“Mayors taking the initiative like this are a great source of hope,” he added.

For more information or to register for the event, visit the website at hecweb.org/gts2017.

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