Speakers encourage a focus on climate

Jess Vogt

“Green democracy.” “A round-table dialogue.” “One day of focused discussion.”No matter how you describe it, January 31 is Focus the Nation day. It is one day of grassroots political efforts to talk about solutions to what is arguably one of the biggest problems in today’s world: global climate change.

Next Thursday, over 1000 institutions — including businesses, colleges and universities and even large corporations — will all be focused on thinking and talking about climate change and what America as a nation can do to help mitigate it. Students, professionals and legislatures all across the nation will be discussing this issue by way of organized teach-ins, discussions with local congressmen and webcasts.

The national project called Focus the Nation is the brainchild of Hunter Lovins, well-known sustainability activist and co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute. She and the board of Focus the Nation are taking the advice of top U.S climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and pursuing a citizen’s course of action to discuss solutions to climate change and the damage it will cause to all facets of our lives.

“We owe our young people at least a day of focused discussion about global warming solutions for America,” the Focus the Nation website declares. Grassroots political action and discussion, they believe, is the only way to spark change in our sluggish legislature and politicians.

“What I appreciate most about the event,” said associate professor of geology and department chair of environmental studies Jeff Clark, “is that it is about solutions, rather than rehashing the debate over the causes of climate change.”

Indeed, Focus the Nation concentrates most on the idea of solutions. The event acknowledges that global warming is happening and will drastically impact all aspects of our lives unless we move towards new solutions now.

The contribution of Lawrence University students to this day will come in the form of many short speeches outside all over campus between classes by members of Greenfire. These speeches, inspired by Mark Johnson’s 5-minute speeches, will provide a variety of perspectives on the issue of global warming.

“Since the speeches are by individuals and not by ‘Greenfire,’ they will show other students how varied our opinions are,” Johnson commented.

“These are relevant issues that I think can invite discussion, even if we are not environmental scientists,” said sophomore Greenfire member Rachel Russell. “I am hoping that the speeches on January 31 will inspire a campus-wide forum for discussion, because I think there is a lot to talk about — especially with important elections coming up.”

“I like that it initiates a grassroots discussion which will engage our political leaders and ordinary citizens,” Clark added.

“I think that some of us are also hoping that the Lawrence community will come to regard us as the Greenfire militia — the impromptu movers and shakers of Lawrence University,” Russell said.

To kick off the day of discussion, Focus the Nation will be producing a webcast called “The 2% Solution” for national viewing at 7 p.m. on January 30. The event will feature panel discussions with Stanford University climate scientist, Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, green job pioneer Van Jones, as well as youth activists and leaders, and include interactive components such as cell phone voting.

Lawrence will be screening the live event on campus, and students, faculty and staff are all encouraged to attend. The title of the webcast comes from the fact that in order to mitigate climate change caused by humans, we will have to globally cut carbon emissions by two percent each year for the next 40 years.

For more information and to see what other schools and businesses have planned, go to www.FocustheNation.org. If you’re interested in giving your own speech for the event on January 31, please contact Jess Vogt at vogtj@lawrence.edu.