Focused on the future
Chico State and Butte College take on a national campaign to help solve the climate crisis
“We have to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide within a decade … We cannot wait for new technologies … We have to act with what we have. This decade, that means focusing on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy that do not burn carbon. We don’t have much time left.”
–Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Chico State professor Mark Stemen is counting down the semesters civilization has left to get organized. Two and a half years after a leading NASA scientist officially framed a 10-year response time to global climate change, Stemen views an upcoming national campaign as crucial to shifting environmental policy.
“Focus The Nation is about a generational reckoning,” he said. “It’s between the people who will face the effects [of climate change] 30 or 40 years down the line and the people in power right now who will never have to. But it’s not a doom-and-gloom thing here; this is a call to action.”
Backed by evidence from the scientific community, Stemen knows that unless the world acts skillfully, present generations will go down in history as those who knew enough—yet balked at the challenges of global warming.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to minimize the numerous and catastrophic effects of global warming, all countries must peak and decline carbon emissions by 2015. To accomplish this, climate experts agree a concerted effort is required from the top down and the ground up.
Eban Goodstein, a professor at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., started organizing the Focus the Nation campaign two years ago in response to the urgency expressed by the global scientific community. His plan was to engage citizens in serious discussions about climate solutions, support individual conclusions and make them known to America’s leaders.
Billed as the largest teach-in in history, the grassroots event will take place across the country Jan. 31 to create interdisciplinary dialogue on global warming solutions for America. Ultimately, the goal is to force politicians into making the critical decisions on carbon-pollution policies and investments into clean-energy technologies for the use of generations to come.
By coordinating the event at more than 1,400 colleges, universities, middle schools, high schools, places of worship, businesses and civic organizations across the country, Focus the Nation is predicted to engage nearly 2 million Americans in a discussion aimed at moving the country beyond fatalism and toward concerted change.
Locally, Chico State and Butte College will be hosting teach-in sessions at their respective campuses.
During the day-long campaign, various professors, city officials and engaged specialists will speak on subjects ranging from the business, science and politics of global climate change to its solutions, and how to address the psychological denial and hopelessness that often accompanies a growing awareness of the crisis.
The events are free and open to anyone in the community, not just students.
“Focus the Nation is significant because it creates a space for nonpartisan, nonbiased conversation on an issue that really impacts everyone,” said Jillian Buckholz, Chico State’s sustainability coordinator and a moderator of the event. “The political-science session is going to be very impressive, especially [since it’s occurring] during this political season.”
The campaign lands less than a week before “Super Tuesday” with the goal of tipping presidential candidates toward making global warming one of their top administrative issues. It comes at a time when it’s been reported that only three of the 2,075 questions posed to U.S. presidential candidates have addressed global climate change.
For one of the sessions at Chico State, Chico Vice-Mayor Ann Schwab and Redding Mayor Mary Stegall will join Hal Thomas, a deputy district attorney with the Butte County District Attorneys Office, who specializes in environmental crimes. The panel will discuss politics as it relates to climate change.
A town-hall-style meeting will follow the daytime panels, which are designed to equip participants with information they can then take to the evening discussion and share among peer and social groups.
“I am really hoping to get people in the room that normally are not there,” Buckholz said. “Every elected official in the city has been invited to attend.”
Additionally, on the evening leading up to Focus the Nation, Chico State will broadcast a webcast titled “The 2% Solution” at Bell Memorial Union room 210 at 5 p.m. The interactive online panel discussion will explore the questions of whether and how the nation can cut global-warming pollution by 2 percent a year until 2050 to hold the warming at a low increase of 3 to 4 degrees.
Audiences will be able to interact by using their cell phones to vote on solutions discussed by notable panelists, including Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, and green-jobs pioneer Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, Calif.
The live screening is just one of the logistics local organizers have been working out to bring the campaign to the community, especially college students. Chico State student Ivaly Sanford said the coordination between the university and Butte College has been in the works since summer.
“It’s important for young people to hold our political leaders accountable and to get a clear picture on where they stand on climate issues, and turning our efforts to clean-energy polices is easy to get young people excited about, because it’s our future, and it’s real action.”
Stemen echoed Sanford, noting that time is of the essence.
“If we only have eight years, that puts incredible pressure on this election,” he said.
Stemen will be speaking during a panel discussion on the solutions. Gearing up for Focus the Nation, he hopes the sense of urgency catches on.
“The decisions we make today are going to be impacting people for hundreds of years,” he said. “Over the door at Kendall Hall is the saying ‘Today Decides Tomorrow,’ and this is nowhere more true than with climate change. This is the issue of the future; now is the time to act.”
Focus the Nation — Jan. 31
Bell Memorial Union Auditorium
9:30-10:45 Business and Global Climate Change
11-12:15 Science and Global Climate Change
12:30-1:45 Politics and Global Climate Change
2-3:15 Solutions and Global Climate Change
3:30-4:45 Ethical and Psychological Aspects of Global Climate Change
6-9 Town Hall Meeting
Butte College Library Center for Excellence
9:30-10:45 Impacts of Climate Change
11-12:15 What’s Holding Us Back? Obstacles to Change
12:30-1:45 Personal, Community and Global Solutions
2-3:15 Benefits of Living in a Sustainable Society
Butte College Allied Health/Public Safety Center Room 118A
8-9:20 The Next Industrial Revolution
9:30-10:50 The End of Suburbia
11-12:20 Kilowatt Ours
12:30-1:50 Who Killed the Electric Car?
2-3:20 Future of Food