Women of Faith sponsor
ENERGY CONSERVATION DAY
by Helen Wils
I am one of those people who, until
recently, spent very little time thinking
about the energy crisis and energy alternatives such as solar, nuclear and geo-
thermal power. As long as my HL&P
bill did not tax my budget, and as long as
my car, a foreign economy type got
good mileage (even with all its California
emission control devices intact), I was
It was with mild curiosity that I read
about the energy crisis or noted a poll
showing that only 54% of the American
public believed that our country even had
one, This spring, however, I became an
avid reader of government, industry,
business, and environmental reports on
energy. It started when I got involved
with Energy Conservation Awareness Day
an event planned for September 19 with
guest speakers Lola Redford, founder
and president of Consumer Action Now,
and Dr. John McKetta, a professor of
chemical engineering from the University
of Texas. What follows is an account of
how this grassroots effort of concerned
Houston women, came into being.
The idea for the day came one morning
when some members of the Council of
Jewish Sisterhoods met to discuss future
programming plans. The women from
the sisterhoods were interested in a seminar on energy. They saw it as an issue
affecting future generations that the present generation must deal with. They
also saw it as a way to revive the ideals of
the Interfaith Workshops, a past ecumenical women's organization. They
formed a new group called Women of
Millie Cowen a community leader
active in the Jewish Family Service,
Temple Emmanu El and TRIMS, and
organizer par excellence, helped get
together women who would be interested
in the project and contacted Shirley
Warshaw, Council member and on the
board of the Anti-Defamation League
(ADL) and president of Jewish Family
Service; Frances Swartsfager, former presi
dent of Church Women United; Dot
Hines, Houston Metropolitan Ministries
vice-president; Rita Metyko of Theres-
ians of Houston and Virginia Nelson,
chair of the League of Women Voters'
The ADL agreed to be a co-sponsor
of the yet shapeless event and to help
handle the paperwork from our offices.
I work with the ADL and I was told the
project would be in my sphere, if I
wanted it. I agreed.
Women of Faith had its first meeting
at the Rothko Chapel last May.
What followed then was a series of
"first" meetings. At each meeting, the
participants changed. Millie served as
"We knew that we wanted the day to
be informative and not political, that we
wanted to come to the program with
open minds and leave with enough
information to begin to make intelligent
energy decisions," commented Millie.
"We also thought we should have some
sort of follow-up program so that the day
wasn't merely a one shot deal."
Gradually we began to come across
names of people who could help. Someone told us about solar expert Andy Sansom of the Texas Energy Extension
Service. He volunteered his help and that
of the service's director, Barbara Barbera.
We heard about Gloria de Leon, a woman
in the governor's office who was knowledgeable about residential conservation.
We met with people from the Mayor's
office and the Future Studies Center at
University of Houston Clear Lake.
Laura Walton, HL&P's Supervisor for
Conservation, was most interested in our
concepts and arranged for HL&P to do
our printing. We talked to people from
Shell and Arco and Lucas Petroleum,
Mitchell Energy and Solar International
and Panhandle Eastern, and the Crumman
Corporation and the League of Women
Voters and scores of other companies
and agencies. We wrote to the Interfaith Coalition for Energy Conservation
in Washington. We collected literature.
Dot Hines kept reminding us that we
needed a focal point since we could not
possibly hope to cover all there was to
Lola Redford (I), founder and president of Consumer Action Now, and-
Dr. John McKetta, a professor of engineering from the University of
Texas at Austin, will be guest speakers on Energy Conservation Awareness Day, September 19. The event is open to the public and will take
place at the First Christian Church, 1601 Sunset from 9:30 a.m. to 2
p.m. For information call 627-3490.
cover in a program that would run from
9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Finally, we decided
that it was most important to convince
people that there really was a crisis, that
it was not just a figment of the collective imaginations of government and oil
industry executives. It was felt the
program should educate the participants
about energy alternatives and conservation measures.
"Furthermore," remarked Millie
Cowen, "we're talking about our progress
as women into the mainroads of
American life. If there are economic
slowdowns as a result of energy shortages,
dent of Consumer Action Now, a New
York based organization whose purpose
is to activate women in energy programming and to promote the use of solar
power, appeared on the Today show.
"Did you see the Today show,"
Millie asked during our morning
telephone discussion. I hadn't. "Lola
Redford was on. She mentioned many of
the things we've discussed. Maybe she'll
come to Houston."
We placed a call to New York.
Redford said yes.
With two keynote speakers, we now
planned workshops and selected seven
Some of the members of the planning committee for Energy Conservation Day are (front row, I to r) Rita Metyko, Claire O'Hare, and Helen
Wils; (back row, I to r) Virginia Nelson, Millie Cowan, and Tina Reyes.
the first people to suffer will be the
poor. Minority groups and women make
up a large percentage of the poor, and
they will bear the brunt of layoffs and
"They are the ones who least can
tolerate increased heating, cooling and
fuel costs," added Tina Reyes, the new
head of HISD's Bilingual Education
program. "But all of our lifestyles, not
just those of the poor, are shaped by
energy availability; it's a universal issue
that touches all people in. our society.
We can no longer let someone else handle
We began to meet almost daily. It
was a program in which I had become
personally involved and a kind of com-
maraderie developed among planning
committee members. We began to hold
meetings in Millie's kitchen rather than
my office, thinking that it would be
a quieter place.
Frances Swartsfager contacted numerous churches before she found one
that would be able to house our event.
The Christian Women's Fellowship at
First Christian Church agreed to help
with arrangements. We needed a keynote
speaker who would make believers of the
assembled audience, and so we started
hunting for someone who would be dynamic, erudite, and persuasive. The name
of Dr. John McKetta, a chemical engineering professor at the University of
Texas kept reappearing. We obtained a
copy of one of the speeches he had given
and decided to contact him. Accustomed
to speaking to government and industry
groups, McKetta liked the idea of a
women-sponsored program and agreed to
Shortly thereafter, Lola Redord, presi-
"experts" on solar energy, nuclear
energy, energy myths and energy education, petro dollars and world economy,
residential energy use, natural gas exploration and energy conservation in public buildings.
Keynote speakers, workshops, publicity, and mailings cost money. So
began the arduous task of raising the
necessary funds. We called corporations,
businesses, social service and governmental agencies, church and synagogue
groups, foundations,and individuals. We
applied for grants with no success.
A few people thought it was a nice
thing for us "girls" to do to occupy our
spare time. Most were sympathetic and
thought that there was a vital need for a
program such as ours but could not help
finance it. But- some were impressed with
the program we had put together. They
The weeks of planning, anxiety, and
doubt are drawing to a close. I keep saying that I can't wait for the program to
be over, that I'm tired of thinking about,
reading about, and talking about energy.
Yet, I think I'm going to miss working
with all of the women who labored so
tirelessly for this venture, who went
through reams of paper, wrote scores of
letters, and made hundreds of phone
calls to assure its success. A kind of communal bond has formed from our mutual
concern and effort.
Helen Wils, an English instructor on sabbatical from American River College in
Sacramento, California, is currently working as Assistant Director of the Anti-