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Global warming brings young and old to Alley Pond

William Nieter, director of St. John's University's environmental studies program, delivered the event's introduction, prefacing a snippet of a Harvard- and Smitshsonian-produced documentary that will be shown over the next several weeks to frame the discussion."You all know that global warming is upon us É and is only going to get worse in the years to come," he said. "So the question is, what are we actually going to do to slow it down - and maybe even reverse it?"Despite the weighty subject matter, the mixed crowd of young and old area residents injected a measure of humor into the event.As Nieter asked for the youngest member of the audience to stand up for a demonstration, several elderly ladies jokingly volunteered.Two 12-year-old boys finally emerged and Nieter pointed to them as he narrated a potential scenario two generations down the road."Some day É you are going to have grandsons. And when you sit down with them and tell them about this meeting you participated in tonight, we have to ask this audience here, how is that conversation going to end?" Nieter asked rhetorically."Is it going to end with an apology or are we going to take action? It's really up to us how this conversation ends," he finished.Attendees then watched a brief excerpt of a film jointly produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Harvard University Center for the Environment last year.Against a backdrop of images showing pollution, congestion and consumption, a host of scientific experts discussed nature's tipping points - the juncture at which small changes in temperature will precipitate qualitative changes for the entire planet. Asserting that cutting back on fossil fuels was key to curtailing the effects of global warming, the scientists said it would be far cheaper to change energy policies now than to cope with the consequences of inaction later.Nieter, who noted that 1,750 groups were hosting similar events across the country, said spirited discussion and brainstorming followed the brief showing."The feedback from the people was great," he said. "Some people talked about change on the community level, but most people talked about individual changes," ranging from more recycling to taking more walks and changing their workplaces."This is something that we hope will begin tonight, but go on for months and years ahead," Nieter said.The documentary will be shown on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. for the next several weeks (with the exception of Feb. 18), followed by questions and group discussions. The cost for all sessions is $28 for APEC members and $35 for non-APEC members. APEC can be reached at 718-229-4000 for more information.Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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