University of Vermont

University Communications


UVM Students Lead National “Teach-in” On Climate Change

By Joshua Brown Article published January 16, 2008

Focus the Nation, on January 31, 2008, promises to be the largest “teach-in” in US history. So far, it has mobilized students at more than 1300 colleges in 50 states to plan classes and workshops exploring solutions to global warming.

Students at the University of Vermont, with support from many faculty and staff, have developed one of the country’s most ambitious agendas for the event. They’ve expanded their program beyond the one-day national teach-in to include dozens of events over six days.

“We’re standing up to say to the whole nation, ‘Now is the time for action; climate change is the issue of our generation—and we can solve it,’” said Valerie Esposito, a UVM graduate student and one of organizers, “We can’t afford to wait.”

From January 27 until February 1, classes, a film festival, a city-wide green design workshop, art displays, an interactive webcast, concerts, and trainings are planned to bring attention to the latest scientific findings and new ideas for action on how to slow climate change.

The UVM program involves some 40 campus groups, 30 community organizations and businesses, and numerous UVM faculty members who are offering climate change discussions and lectures during their regular classes.

“We have more than 70 faculty signed up—they’ll each draw attention to climate change through their own disciplines, from English to physics,” said Samir Doshi, a Ph.D. student and another of the event organizers, “but we want many more. We’re confident we can have at least 100 faculty on board soon. We just need them go to our Website."

“Our students and faculty have a proud history of leadership in promoting environmental well-being, and I heartily support the efforts underway through Focus the Nation,” said UVM president Daniel Mark Fogel. “I encourage people from across UVM and Vermont to participate. This is a powerful example of how the University of Vermont fosters a creative community of scholars seeking solutions to the most pressing problems of our age.”

All events are free and open to the public.

In addition to the “teach-in” happening in regularly scheduled classes, highlights of the week include:

Sunday, January 27
An evening primer, “Climate Change 101,” will be followed by a climate change film festival including “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.”

Monday, January 28
The fast-changing world of carbon markets will be the topic of a panel hosted by UVM forest ecologist Bill Keeton, with panelists from across UVM and from several international organizations. The panel will be followed by a “carbon farming” workshop.

Tuesday, January 29
UVM professor Jon Erickson will lead a symposium on ecological economics and climate change. Later in the day a panel will explore the connections between biofuels and climate change in Vermont. The day concludes with a concert by Junkman (aka Donald Knack) jamming on reclaimed trash.

Wednesday, January 30
The “Sustainable Burlington Design Charrette” is a five-hour public meeting to help imagine and sketch new environmentally-sound practices for the City of Burlington; it’s sponsored by Mayor Bob Kiss and many others. In the afternoon, tours will be offered of UVM’s state-of-the-art central heating and cooling plant. An “Emerging Green Technologies” plenary is planned for the afternoon.

The national teach-in will kick off the night of January 30 with a web-cast at four on-campus locations of “2% Solution,” co-produced by the National Wildlife Federation and aired by the Earth Day Network. Panelists will include Stanford climate scientist Steve Schneider, Hunter Lovins from Natural Capitalism, and environmental justice leader Van Jones.

Thursday, January 31
Julia "Judy" Bonds, director of Coal River Mountain Watch, will give a keynote lecture on her organization’s fight against the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal that is ravaging many regions of the Appalachians. She is also featured in “Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the fight for Coalfield Justice,” a film being aired as part of the Focus the Nation film festival on campus.

In the evening UVM’s Rubenstein School offers a Town Hall Meeting on climate change followed a performance of "The Boycott," an acclaimed one-woman play by Kathryn Blume.

Friday, February 1
Several workshops on advocacy, climate policy and outreach culminate in a “Focus the Nation Speak Out” that concludes the week’s activities

This speak-out and rally will begin at 3 p.m., in UVM’s Davis Center.

Speakers will include UVM provost John Hughes and John Isham, a national organizer of Focus the Nation and professor at Middlebury College. Other potential speakers include writer Bill McKibben and Eban Goodstein, a professor from Lewis and Clark who first conceived Focus the Nation and has been the lead national organizer.