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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Focus the Nation

Air Date: Week of January 25, 2008

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Over 1500 college and high school campuses will take part in the largest teach-in in U.S. history at the end of the month. The "Focus the Nation" teach-in will create an open dialogue between students, civic leaders and policy makers on the issue of climate change. Students David Solheim of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Lacey Riddle of the University of Portland in Oregon tell host Bruce Gellerman about their schools' plans for the big day.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: Students nationwide say global warming is making them hot as hell and they're not going to take it any longer. At the end of this month in a demonstration reminiscent of the 1960's, they'll be conducting what organizers say will be the largest teach-in in history - involving millions of students on over 1500 college campuses and high schools.

The teach-in is just one in a number of events, part of "Focus the Nation" - global warming solutions for America. David Solheim is President of the Student Body at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Also joining us from the University of Portland in Oregon is Lacey Riddle. Hello both. David, let's start with you. What are you guys doing there?

SOLHEIM: Well at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, it’s really something exciting and unprecedented. We’ve got about 12 lectures lined up from professors from a variety of disciplines. We’re trying to show the pervasiveness of climate change and how that affects each area of campus, not just the sciences. In addition we have a low carbon footprint meal and an example of a sustainable dorm room set up on campus as well.

GELLERMAN: A sustainable dorm room? I think many parents would just settle for a clean dorm room but what’s a sustainable dorm room?

SOLHEIM: Well a sustainable dorm room what we set up with all the standard furniture, which comes in any dorm room on campus. But all of the consumer products within that dorm room will be sustainable products that we’ve had donated from different businesses around Lincoln. And so we have an organization on campus called the “Green Builders” who are putting that together. Just showing students that even though you’re away at college and stuffed away in a little box on the tenth floor, you can still contribute in a big way to climate change.

GELLERMAN: And Lacey, what are you going to do at the University of Portland?

RIDDLE: Well, we’ve actually got two major events going on. During our daylong teach-in, it’s the same thing kind of as the University of Nebraska. We’ve got about 26 panel sessions where teachers from all disciplines will sit down together and really encourage their students to either not attend class and attend to these panel sessions that are relevant to their classes, or if they can’t, you know, sacrifice one day they’ll sit down and discuss the issue in class for at least a few minutes and then come five o’clock we’ll all convert over to the child center and really warm up with some live sketch comedy that’s climate change themed. And then we’ll also have local band “Hillstop” who plays on half recycled instruments play.


Lacey Riddle of the University of Portland (Courtesy of Lacey Riddle)

GELLERMAN: I must say, you both sound very enthusiastic but you know, your generation - my perception is - is that you’re not known for your activism. And I’m wondering how students on your campuses are responding to you.

RIDDLE: Well, I don’t know if either of you read Thomas Friedman’s “Generation Q” but apparently we are Generation Quiet and that is kind of evident as you know, as we are the Facebook generation, we live our lives online. But I think we’re realizing, you know, just saying that you’re doing something online and actually doing something in person won’t invoke our older generations. It won’t really address the issues and make them concerned about our future. So, I think we’re kind of stepping out of the box and realizing our place in society and really addressing our own civic responsibilities and now you’re seeing, I think, activism flourishing at universities.

SOLHEIM: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. The Tom Friedman article was I think inflammatory to young people who are trying to be active all across the nation and it really forced us to kind of face what I believe is an evolution in activism. I think that our generation is more service-oriented than any before us but we want to encourage that traditional aspect of activism too, which is writing letters and being vocal and showing up at the ballot box to really effect change here.

RIDDLE: I think there is a huge, huge, huge need to raise awareness amongst our political leaders. They are the people who determine our future. It’s their legislation that will change my generation’s future and prepare us for transitioning into a clean energy economy.

SOLHEIM: I’ve always urged our students to look at the candidates, look at their stances on issues, and make climate change one of those deciding factors in who you cast your ballot for in November.

GELLERMAN: Well, David, Lacey, thank you both very much. Good luck with Focus the Nation.

RIDDLE: Thanks so much, Bruce.

SOLHEIM: Thank you much. We appreciate it.

 

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Focus the Nation

 

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