Last Thursday, October 22, students and professors from a variety of fields gathered in Persson Hall Auditorium to address the issue of global warming. The “National 350 Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions” was a declared “Day of National Engagement,” where campus-wide sessions across the country raised awareness of the interdisciplinary nature of climate change.
Colgate was one of many schools that hosted an educational and participatory event in honor of the “350 International Day of Climate Action,” which occurred on Saturday, October 24. This “350 Day” was a global call to action to organize around the symbolic number 350, signifying the parts per million level that scientists have determined as a safe upper limit of CO2 in the atmosphere. The facilitator of Colgate’s National Teach-In, Sustainability Coordinator John Pumilio, explained the 350 concept and encouraged attendees to participate on Saturday by incorporating environmental action with the number 350. Examples from around the nation include mass bike rides and letter-writing campaigns to politicians.
The Colgate National 350 Teach-In featured a completely locally sourced meal, meaning that the food all came from the Central New York area. The lunch, catered by Sodexho, included apples, an assortment of Mexican food and desserts. Additionally, Colgate’s Composting Group provided a compost bin at the event, further emphasizing personal sustainability actions.
The local lunch was another reminder of the amount of carbon humans emit during everyday activities, and how eating more locally can alleviate each personal carbon footprint.
The panel discussion started with facilitator Pumilio asking each panelist to introduce themselves. This allowed the audience to see the wide range of disciplines that have a stake in the expertise surrounding climate change. The panel featured professors from the philosophy, geography, biology, economics, geology and environmental studies departments, as well as two students, senior Shea Frydenlund and sophomore Michael Michonski. Each panelist had a different perspective, but global warming and its growing importance as an issue brought them all together.
“It was great to have students on the panel, especially to show the students in the audience that their peers are passionate about addressing climate change,” Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies April Baptiste said.
Pumilio began the facilitation informally by asking the attendees if they had any initial questions for the panel. This simple question kicked off an hour-long discussion of issues surrounding climate change, the 350.org goals and ecology.
The contrasting perspectives that were brought to the forefront made the talk dynamic. There was a debate on the importance of changing values when changing behavior between Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies Jason Kawall and Director of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Bob Turner.
“Some panelists really helped to show that this event is bigger than just reducing carbon levels to 350ppm. It begins with a behavioral change, and I think it is important to instill values within people to make these changes,” Professor Baptiste said.
The audience was engaged in the issues discussed, and appeared to find the event informative and currently relevant.
A few more provocative questions were raised at the end of the discussion. Among these were topics of hopelessness in regards to the climate change issue, the relevance and limits of the 350ppm as a concept and the responsibilities of developing nations to limit their emissions despite their poor economic state.
As the meeting drew to a close, Pumilio posed the final question concerning the fact that there is still debate about the existence of human-caused global warming. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, released last Thursday, reported that only 57% believe there is solid evidence of global climate change, down 20 points from three years ago. William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography and Presidential Scholar Adam Burnett assured the audience that there is a wide consensus among scientists that global warming is real, and that only a minority of scientists do not fully support this assumption.
“The event educated people in a different way than I had planned. Originally I thought there would be more lecturing, but John facilitated a fascinating discussion between the audience and the panel,” senior Lindsey Jacobson, who helped plan the event, said. “I felt a real sense of a community organizing to figure out our role and responsibility to those most affected by climate change.”