Southwestern University will join more than 1,500 colleges and universities nationwide in a Jan. 31 “teach-in” about global warming.

The project, called “Focus The Nation,” was organized by Eban Goldstein, a professor of economics at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. Organizers claim the event is the largest teach-in in U.S. history, and will reach nearly 1 million youth.

“No other generation has ever had to face this kind of civilizational challenge,” Goldstein says. “And we as educators would be failing if we did not prepare them with the tools to meet this challenge.”

The teach-in will begin the night of Jan. 30 with a live webcast produced by the National Wildlife Federation and aired by the Earth Day Network. Panelists will include Stanford climate scientist Steve Schneider; Hunter Lovins, an environmental justice leader and CEO of Natural Capitalism; and Van Jones, executive director of the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, Calif.

The next day, Jan. 31, faculty members at participating universities will be asked to incorporate global warming into their lectures. Here are some examples of how faculty members at Southwestern will work the topic into their classes Jan. 30 and 31:

• Math Professor Tara Saenz will talk to her Intro to Statistics course about “good” and “bad” statistics relating to global warming.
• Biology Professor Ben Pierce will talk to students in his Genetics class about genetic and evolutionary responses of natural populations to climate change.
• Spanish Professor Carlos D’Oro will discuss the topic of climate change in Spanish to his students.
• German Professor Erika Berroth will talk to her classes about Germany’s perspective on the environment.
• Theater Professor John Ore will talk to students in his Lighting Design class about LED lights.
• Religion Professor Katherine Baker will talk to her classes about what the Hebrew Bible says about “good stewardship of creation.”

The third component of the teach-in is a national videoconference titled “Green Democracy” that will connect college students with members of Congress to discuss solutions to the problem of global warming.

Locally, Southwestern will host a forum at noon on Jan. 31 in the Bishop’s Lounge, located on the first floor of the McCombs Campus Center. Assistant Georgetown City Manager Tom Yantis will discuss a variety of environmental initiatives that are happening in the city of Georgetown.

The final piece of Focus The Nation will be a “Choose Your Future” vote. Students, faculty members and community participants will be encouraged to vote on what they think are the top five solutions to climate change from a list that is available at Results of the vote will be delivered to Congressional offices Feb. 18. All students who participate in the vote will be eligible to win a $10,000 leadership scholarship for a project to be completed by end of August 2008.

“This event emphasizes the power of college and university students to impact the broader culture,” says Laura Hobgood-Oster, a faculty member at Southwestern who is helping organize local participation in the event. “The generation sitting in our classrooms is facing climate change as the central global reality of their lives. They know that a major cultural shift has to happen. I think they are up to the challenge. Focus the Nation is a great example of the creative ways that these young people are connecting with each other, learning, developing leadership skills, and reacting to this very present crisis.”

Other central Texas schools participating in the teach-in include Austin Community College, Texas State University, St. Edwards University, The University of Texas at Austin and Georgetown High School.


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