Carleen Cullen fights global warming September 7, 2008 By Shelah Moody, Chronicle Staff Writer Carleen Cullen, inspired

by "An Inconvenient Truth," founded a program to teach school kids how to combat global warming. In her 20s, Carleen Cullen launched a successful medical and scientific software company in Manhattan called Ovid Technologies, which grew into a global company with 125 employees and enabled her to retire. Cullen and her husband, Jeff, settled in Marin County to raise their two children and to lead a quiet life away from the bustle of Manhattan. But the couple's lives changed forever after they saw Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006. "We'd been peripherally aware of climate change, but not involved at all," said Cullen. "Like a lot of people, I walked out feeling pretty depressed about the future." Cullen spent the summer of 2006 reading every book she could on the problem of climate change and poring through scientific databases. She discovered overwhelming evidence that the climate was changing in a dangerous way. Clearly, something needed to be done. In 2007, Cullen launched Cool the Earth, a program designed to educate children and their families about climate change through taking action, at Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield. "I often tell the kids that it's just like a car," said Cullen, who holds a bachelor's in English literature from Loyola Marymount University, "When you go into your parents' car and it's been sitting in the sun in a parking lot and all of the windows are up - when you open the door, you notice how much warmer it is inside the car. That's what's happening to the Earth - it's as if all the windows are getting rolled up and it's starting to get hot and all the gases can't release. If we stop using so many fossil fuels, we'll allow the Earth to be able to breathe again." Cullen runs Cool the Earth out of her garage with 10 employees as well as several teachers and parent volunteers who work in 25 Bay Area elementary and middle schools.

"The program kicks off with a schoolwide assembly, " said Cullen, who writes the scripts. One includes a polar bear talking to its kids about how their habitat is damaged. "It's all done in a very fun way. Then Mr. Carbon comes out, and he is the villain who drives everywhere, makes garbage and uses old-fashioned lights." After the students attend the Cool the Earth assembly, they are given coupon booklets that contain 20 no-cost to low-cost easy actions - everything from packing a no-waste lunch to lowering your water heater temperature. "When your child comes home and says, 'Mom, we need to change to the new twisty lightbulbs; it's so good for the polar bears,' and they are really pushing you to do it, you find the time," said Cullen. Cool the Earth is funded by partnerships with the Bay Area Air Quality Management Board, Marin Community Foundation, Marin Conservation Corps, Strategic Energy Innovations, Marin Municipal Water District, PG&E and Safe Routes to School, and it is run in cooperation with the Marin Municipal Water District. According to Cullen, in its first year, Cool the Earth has motivated families to take more than 10,000 measurable actions to reduce carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking more than 750 cars off the road. The organization now has funding for 100 schools throughout the Bay Area and is looking for schools to participate. "What I love about working with young people is their absolute optimism," said Cullen. "You tell them, 'Hey, we've got this little problem over here with our friend, the polar bear, and with humans as well,' and they're not overwhelmed by it; they're not skeptical or cynical. They just ask, 'What can I do to fix it?' " For more information, go to www.cooltheearth.org. Each week, The Chronicle features a Bay Area resident who has won a Jefferson Award for making a difference in his or her community. The awards are administered by the American Institute for Public Service, a national foundation that honors community service. Bay Area residents profiled in The Chronicle are also featured on CBS5-TV and KCBS-AM, which are Jefferson Award media partners, along with The Chronicle. This article appeared on page E - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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