Students gathered in Goodhue’s Superlounge to discuss youth involvement in the climate change movement over dinner with Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer Thursday night. Carleton students shared their stories about projects that they have worked on and conventions that they have attended with regards to the movement.
The discussion was the penultimate event in Carleton’s climate change and sustainability teach-in. Wednesday night and all day Thursday students participated in discussions, activities and a concert to spread awareness about global warming and promote sustainability topics on campus. “I guarantee, even the students who couldn’t participate because of class know someone who did,” said Bessie Schwarz ‘08, a student organizer. 1000 institutions across the United States participated in the two-day event called Focus the Nation. The discussions approached not just environmental sustainability, but also social sustainability. “It seems like an elitist and privileged topic, but it needs not be.” said Schwarz.
Many of the universities and colleges addressed the importance and magnitude of the issue. At Carleton, however, because the students generally understand the problem, Mathias Bell, Schwarz, and Adam Smith, the organizers, focused on an understanding of the solutions and how students could act. Carleton’s interdisciplinary atmosphere creates a solid platform for climate change and sustainability discussions because Carls can synthesize the scientific, ethical and social issues, says Smith. This interdisciplinary model of discussion is what is necessary to solve the problem.
“The fight against global warming is so widespread,” said Smith, “that it can be fought on multiple fronts.” He praised the studentgroups on campus who have increased actions and awareness of global warming, but he said that he hoped Focus the Nation would make students understand that the fight can “start by switching off the light, or knowing where the recycling goes. It’s important for people to realize that while there are options for intensive activism, it’s not all or nothing.”
“Focus the Nation will make a huge difference in the psyche of the college students,” said Smith when asked about the impact he predicts the event will have. “So you may not see sweeping legislative changes in the next months, but you’ll see a new generation who will be able to look back at Focus the Nation and say ‘that’s when I first understood how important this problem was and that’s when I first got involved.’”
“Focus the Nation is about showing power,” added Schwartz. “It’s especially important for people who don’t identify as the core to see the momentum within citizens.”
Eban Goodstein, an Economics professor at Lewis and Clark University, first announced Focus the Nation in October of 2006 at the AFASHE conference because he wanted to push global warming into the topics discussed in the presidential primaries and onto the national stage. The director of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged that we are past the point of seeing impacts of global warming, but that if we wait until 2012 to take action, the magnitude of the impacts will be much worse. “While there are lots of facts and figures out there, a lot of people don’t understand them and write off global warming as an insurmountable challenge” says Smith. Focus the Nation, in his eyes, helped people understand the problem and the facts so that the solutions could become more tangible.