Global warming teaching to replace classes
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SF State students will take a crash course in global warming solutions together in Jack Adams Hall on Jan. 30 and 31, as part of a national teach-in involving more than 1,000 American schools.

The two-day event, called “Focus the Nation,” will feature guest speakers ranging from professors and environmental activists to policymakers. Among the invitees are San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno and representatives for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Confirmed keynote speakers include Van Jones, president and co-founder of Oakland’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Faculty from several disciplines will bring their classes and spend one of their class periods acknowledging the threat global warming could pose to the world and discussing what can be done to combat it.

“We’re always balancing day-to-day things with the more important things in the world,” said Carlos Davidson, director of environmental studies and a major contributor to SF State’s Focus the Nation. The teach-in allows students, faculty and staff from all walks of life to put general concerns aside for two days to jointly confront “the defining issue of our time,” he said.

“Global warming is ‘environmental’ in quotes, but it’s important to every person on this planet, especially students,” said Glenn Fieldman, an environmental studies professor at SF State. “The consequences are being felt now, and they’ll be felt even more later on. This is very much a young person’s issue,” she said.

Attendees will get to participate in activities like a carbon footprint workshop, in which people can learn about how much carbon is emitted to support their lifestyles and what can be changed to reduce that, said Woody Hastings, an environmental studies major involved with the event.

Some of the recommended ways people can reduce carbon emissions, like driving cars less often, may already be common knowledge. Others, like buying produce from local farmers instead of from importers that burn fuel to ship it, may be new to some and can also make a difference.

“People hear ‘global warming’ left and right, but they don’t often make those connections,” Hastings said. “We don’t often hear enough about what we need to do about it.”

An additional theme will be social justice in the face of a global problem. The history of the campus calls for the event to acknowledge that those responsible for reducing emissions and those most affected are different, Hastings said. “It’s not something that’s talked about much when talking about global warming,” he said.

“I think the country is starting to see that climate change is a huge problem. What’s not apparent is that this is a social justice issue,” said Davidson. If hurricanes become stronger, droughts last longer and the sea level rises, poor people of color in undeveloped countries around the world will be hit hardest, he said.

The event joins a handful of the university’s recent efforts to become more environmentally friendly. SF State President Robert Corrigan joined hundreds of college and university presidents this September in committing to reduce SF State’s greenhouse gas emissions and eventually make it “climate neutral.” The spring Academic Senate will likely vote on a resolution to create a sustainability action committee to guide the university toward fulfilling the commitment. And a new class called Campus Sustainability (ENVS 570 in the class schedule), in which students will learn how to audit the campus’ emissions, will also begin this spring.

Davidson said he hopes Focus the Nation will catalyze interest and participation in global warming solutions in students, faculty and staff from all walks of life.

“You don’t know, when you’re in the midst of things, how this is going to play out,” he said. “But this could be a pivotal moment for the university community.”

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