Giant Teach-In to Focus the Nation on Global Warming

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 29, 2008 (ENS) – Global warming is being explored at more than 1,500 universities, colleges and high schools across the country this week in what organizers are calling the largest teach-in in American history.

The problems posed by Earth’s warming climate and the best possible solutions are the subject of classes, seminars, panels, debates, teleconferences, workshops, roundtable discussions, expos, concerts and theatrical performances, banquets featuring local foods, pub crawls, film and video showings, poster contests, contests for the best artwork made from recycled materials with cash prizes for the winners.

Focus the Nation
organizer Professor
Eban Goodstein
participates in
discussion at
Clemson University.
(Photo courtesy
Focus the Nation)

At Missouri State University, 20 tons of coal are being piled up to represent the amount of coal the school uses in one hour.

Events on every campus are different, yet there is a common theme – tackling global warming before disasters such as rising sea levels, melting glaciers, extreme weather shifts, extinction of species and the northward migration of tropical diseases go even farther than they already have.

The nationwide initiative, called Focus the Nation, is a project of the Green House Network, an environmental advocacy group. The idea originated with Eben Goodstein, a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

He kicked off Focus the Nation on Friday at Clemson University in South Carolina, the day before the state’s presidential primary race.

Democratic presidental hopeful
Senator Barack Obama
addresses a crowd at Clemson
University in South Carolina.
(Photos courtesy Focus the

“I am thrilled to have our national kickoff at Clemson University,” said Goodstein, “Clemson is already a leader with their Restoration Institute in exactly the kind of thinking and innovation that this country needs to move beyond fatalism and launch a clean energy revolution. The research talent at the university, combined with the political will of South Carolina voters, makes Clemson a perfect fit to launch Focus the Nation.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama mentioned Focus the Nation as he campaigned at Clemson on Friday.

“There is an organization called Focus the Nation, which is going to have the largest campus teach in on global warming in United States history right here on the Clemson campus,” Obama said. “This is an important issue and I want everyone to be involved with it, everybody to be paying attention. I hope all of you choose to participate, because this is a terrific issue.”

Most Focus the Nation events are scheduled for Thursday, January 31, a date chosen because it falls during the presidential primary season. But so many events are planned, that they have spilled over to fill the calendar through mid-February.

At Goodstein’s home campus, Lewis and Clark College, more than 50 faculty members will participate in panel discussions on global warming.

Many campuses will feature an interactive webcast called “The 2% SOLUTION” that Focus the Nation will stream live Wednesday night.

The webcast will feature Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider, actor Edward Norton, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, and green jobs pioneer Van Jones with youth climate leaders in a discussion of global warming solutions. Audiences can weigh in with cell phone voting for the best solutions.

“Our goal is 10,000 screenings, and a change in the course of history,” said Goodstein.

The webcast is built around the idea that developed countries need to cut roughly 2% of current emission levels a year for the next 40 years to hold global warming to the low end of 3-4 degrees Fahrenheit that scientists say will help avert the worst effect of a warming climate.

This 2% goal will require cuts in global warming pollution in the developed countries by more than 80 percent below current levels by 2050. The webcast participants explore what it would take to move the United States onto that path.

Produced with the support of the National Wildlife federation, and hosted on Earth Day Network TV, the webcast will be broadcast live from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Focus the Nation is intended to motivate students across the country to understand the urgency of the situation.

“Climate change may not be a priority for students today, but if we wait until tomorrow to make it a priority, it might be too late,” said Kareem Salem, president of Associated Students of University of California-Davis.

“You’ve heard enough about the problem,” said Vince Pawlowski, a part-time University of Arizona student who worked to involve the university in the initiative.

Focus the Nation participants at
Clemson University (Photo
courtesy Focus the Nation)

“We’ve got global warming now. It’s here. It’s not just knocking on the door. It’s in the room,” Pawlowski said. “We’re not debating whether it’s a problem or not. We’re trying to move the discussion to the solution.”

Pawlowski acknowledged that not everyone believes global climate change is happening and affecting the world’s populations and natural resources.

“But it’s not the deniers who are the problem. They are few and far between and are easily outmatched by anyone who has read the literature,” he said. “It’s every one of us who knows there’s a problem and don’t do enough – that’s going to be the biggest problem.”

Dozens of politicians of both parties at all levels of government are lending their support to Focus the Nation.

Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid of Nevada will speak at the University of Nevada-Reno, Senator Bill Nelson is taking part in the 2% Solution webcast. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is speaking at North Shore Community College. Senator Max Baucus will be at the University of Montana – Missoula.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island will be at Brown University. “Global warming is among the most significant challenges we face. Congress is finally taking action – but we need public support to act boldly,” said Whitehouse. “I hope this event will give Rhode Islanders an opportunity to speak out.”

Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will be speaking at Tufts University. Congressman Henry Waxman of California will be at Santa Monica College.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will speak at San Francisco State University, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks will be at Florida A&M University, and Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle, who started the University of Washington

Governor Arnold Schwarznegger wrote to the organization last week, “I was excited to learn that hundreds of California colleges, universities, K-12 schools and organizations are participating in Focus the Nation… I want to thank all of the participants, supporters and organizers of Focus the Nation for creating this wonderful opportunity. I also applaud all the young people for getting involved, and I encourage each of you to continue to share what you learn with your friends, families and communities.”

For more information, visit Focus the Nation at: []

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