Lifelong Learners Program Discusses Effects of Climate Change

Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies and Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 and Endowed Chair in Regional Studies Catherine Cardelús facilitated discussion on near and far-reaching impacts of climate change in the latest course of Colgate’s Lifelong Learners series. Held at the Hamilton Public Library Feb. 26 and 27, “Climate Change-Global and Local Effects” is part of a 14-course semester with Colgate’s Lifelong Learning Program, which began as part of the University’s Upstate Institute in 2009. The program aims to engage both the Colgate and the greater Hamilton community in learning about a wide variety of subjects and current events.

Cardelús gave a lecture during class on Thursday, Feb. 27, driven by her passion for studying climate change and its widespread effects on our current world.

“I’m a tropical ecologist: I wanted to save the rainforest, so I’ve been passionate about [climate change] for a long time…climate is the existential crisis of the entire planet right now, it is what’s going to determine if we have a future,” Cardelús said.

One of the points that Cardelús sought to emphasize throughout her lecture was the importance of being well-informed on and aware of climate change.

“I’ve been monitoring the demise of forests and plant communities and animal communities everywhere I go, so I see first-hand how climate is impacting us,” Cardelús said.

She also spoke about Colgate’s role in raising awareness about climate change.

“Right now, Colgate is carbon neutral; we have a very strong sustainability council—I’m the chair of that council—and we just helped bring Colgate to carbon neutrality, and we’re [integrating] sustainability across campus…we’re not only embedding it into the curriculum, but we also have green building protocols. We also have it integrated into job ads, so that all of the staff that we hire have the ethic of sustainability,” Cardelús said.

While Cardelús reconizes Colgate’s work on sustainibility, she emphasizes that there is more work to be done.

“I’d say about 50 percent of students on campus don’t have any encounter with climate change and what it is, and that doesn’t seem enough that fewer than 50 percent of our students actually have contact with the subject,” Cardelús said. “There’s a lot of things that Colgate does right—and we should be proud of it—but it’s not enough. I don’t think enough students on campus know [about our mission], and we constantly have to work on bringing that together.”

Cardelús said she encourages both the Colgate community and those in the greater Hamilton area to do more in spreading awareness about climate change.

“See what is going on out there. This is generations of faults, there’s a lot of inequity here. I am very confident that if more people understood how serious the problem is to the future, more people would care, and get involved in the movement,” Cardelús said.

Program Coordinator Rachel Amann-Burns discussed Colgate’s Lifelong Learning mission and operations.

“The curriculum committee determines what kind of classes they’d like to teach…they usually try and get [classes in] social sciences, natural sciences, humanities and sports, and then they request proposals from professors on Colgate’s campus who teach these things,” Amann-Burns said.

Among the most important aspects of the program is its ability to unite Colgate students and faculty with the greater Hamilton community in a non-traditional classroom setting, according to Amann-Burns.

“Providing low-cost and low-stress opportunities is the goal of the program, it’s a social opportunity and a way to learn something new, but you don’t have a test or any sort of requirements afterwards…it’s just to learn,” Amann-Burns said. “It’s a collaboration between Colgate University and the community that presents courses of historical and contemporary issues, content areas that are of interest of the community.”