Panel lauds Rockefeller '30's legacy

by Susan Matthews | 11/7/08 4:08am

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A panel discusses Nelson Rockefeller's legacy on Thursday.
by SEBASTIAN RAMIREZ-BRUNNER / The Dartmouth

The panelists were Dan Reicher '78, director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives at Google.org, Henry Diamond, the New York State commissioner of Environmental Conservation during Rockefeller's administration and Allison Rockefeller, chair of Cornerstone Parks of New York and wife of Rockefeller's grandson.

Diamond discussed Rockefeller's environmental work, including his land usage policies and water pollution control project, which Diamond said was one of the first in the country.

"Nelson created the first environmental super-agency in the country," Diamond said, adding that Rockefeller combined environmental health issues with environmental protection issues.

By taking on pollution issues, Diamond said that Rockefeller was "taking on a tough political issue for the benefit of the environment."

Allison Rockefeller said her personal connection to the former governor transcended familial ties.

"Family aside, I feel like I am a direct descendant of Nelson Rockefeller because I am a New York resident," she said. "To be the benefactor of his legacy as a citizen is enormously gratifying and out-measures a family connection."

Allison Rockefeller is the founder of Cornerstone Parks, an organization that aims to bring communities together by converting abandoned gas stations into small parks.

"I hoped that we could take these properties and do something with them," she said, adding that she hopes the project will bring town centers back to communities.

"We need to restore and revitalize the core parts of the communities from which we come," she added.

There are 3,278 closed gas stations in New York state, she said, and, after having seen the successes of the first park renovations, she hopes to expand the project to the rest of the country.

Technology, policy and finance are three concepts that must be present in the search for sustainable energy practices, Reicher said.

Reicher said he has career experience with each concept, due to his work at Google.org. Reicher was also an Assistant Secretary of Energy under the administration of President Bill Clinton and is a co-founder of New Energy Capital Corp., a company that supports renewable energy.

"The point is that if you have a passion you can come at it from so many different directions," Reicher said.

Reicher is currently working to make renewable energy sources less expensive alternatives to coal, he said.

"The [renewable sources] we have great hope for are vastly more expensive," he said, referring to wind and solar energy.

Google.org, an off-shoot of Google that advocates finding solutions to climate change, poverty and emerging disease, is currently exploring ways to make geothermal energy more effective by expanding its applicability with new methods, Reicher said.

Reicher explained his own connection to Rockefeller by bringing out notes he took as a middle school student attending the New York State environmental teach-in, where he saw Rockefeller speak.

Reicher's commitment to the environment predated the teach-in, he said. When he was seven, he saw an advertisement for coats with hoods lined with wolverine fur, which he said upset him greatly because he had learned in school that day that wolverines were endangered.

After writing the company a letter detailing his discontent, he received a notice from them explaining they had discontinued the coat.

"So I thought, 'This is easy,'" Reicher quipped.

It is rumored that Reicher has been asked to join the transition team for President-elect Barack Obama, according to numerous blogs. The Dartmouth could not independently confirm this.

The panel event was part of the Rockefeller Center's centennial celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of Rockefeller's birth.