URI joins 1,600 universities to ‘Focus the Nation’ on global warming solutions

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Largest teach-in in U.S. history to educate, advocate for change

KINGSTON, R.I. — January 24, 2008 – The University of Rhode Island will join more than 1,600 universities and other institutions on Jan. 31 in the nation’s largest teach-in in history. The event, called Focus the Nation, is a non-partisan educational initiative designed to engage educators and the public in developing solutions to global warming.

The teach-in at URI will involve more than 100 professors in a wide range of disciplines teaching and leading discussions about climate change and how it relates to their fields of study including communications, textiles, economics, wildlife conservation, politics and oceanography.

“Climate change is one of the most challenging issues facing this generation of college students, and they need to understand global warming science and policy and how it will affect society and their future,” said Fred Meyerson, assistant professor of demography, ecology and environmental policy and co-organizer of URI’s Focus the Nation activities. “As educators, we can help them develop that knowledge.”

Focus the Nation at URI will be carbon neutral thanks to offsets donated by Sterling Planet Inc., the nation’s leading carbon offset company.

In a message to the campus community, URI President Robert L. Carothers encouraged faculty and students to participate in Focus the Nation. “Climate change will impact all of our lives over the coming years. Knowing why and how that will happen can help us both learn about the science and policy issues we face and what we can change in our own personal lives. Please get involved!” Link here to read the President’s message.

“This is an opportunity for URI students to become part of the national youth climate movement,” said URI graduate student Rachel Sholly, co-founder of Student Action for Sustainability, a URI student organization. “As young people, we have the responsibility to take an active role in the future of our world. Solving the problem of global warming is not going to be easy, but we have to show the world that we are up to the challenge.”

The teach-in will culminate in solutions-based roundtable discussions between students, elected leaders and Congress. All participants across the country will then vote on top solutions. The top five results from the “Choose Your Future” vote will be announced in early February 2008.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m., the night before the teach-in, the URI community will also have the opportunity to participate in several simultaneous screenings of “The Two Percent Solution,” a live interactive web cast broadcast to all participating universities www.focusthenation.org/2percentsolution.php. Climate scientists and other experts will discuss solutions to global warming and viewers will vote on solutions via text message. Viewing sites for the webcast will be at the URI Memorial Union, Rodman Hall room 207, and Weaver Auditorium in the Coastal Institute, all on the Kingston campus, with additional sites still being established.

“This webcast is a great chance for students, faculty and the public to have a dialogue about this most critical of issues,” Meyerson said. “And for those who can’t join us at our viewing sites, they can watch it on their computer wherever they are and participate.”

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, two 4-foot, 300-pound melting ice blocks will be placed inside the Memorial Union and outside Hope Dining Hall to symbolize global warming. Members of URI Student Action for Sustainability, the URI Wildlife Society and URI Recycles will be stationed at each block with educational posters to promote the 2% Solution screenings and additional information on climate change and how to get involved.

With a national team led by Eban Goodstein, author and professor of economics at Lewis & Clark College, Focus The Nation is galvanizing a generational partnership between youth and baby boomers in a vision for America that has not occurred since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “Today’s youth are truly the greatest generation,” said Goodstein. “We would be failing as educators if we did not prepare them with the tools necessary to meet this challenge.”

Focus The Nation’s teach-in has four key components:

1. The Two Percent Solution Web Cast – Live on Jan. 30. This will feature Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider, Natural Capitalism president Hunter Lovins, and environmental justice leader Van Jones, executive director of the Ella Baker Center.

2. The National Teach-In – faculty-led symposium across campuses on January 31.

3. Green Democracy – live and videoconference roundtable discussions between Congress and campuses on solutions to global warming.

4. Choose Your Future – online ballot to vote on top five solutions to global warming –

vote from Jan. 21 to Feb. 12 at www.focusthenation.org/chooseyourfuture.php.

For more information about URI’s Focus the Nation activities, contact Fred Meyerson at fmeyerson@uri.edu or Rachel Sholly at rachel.sholly@gmail.com.