Monday, August 14, 2006

Spreading the wor(l)d

The Climate Project, a program initiated by Al Gore, is looking to train people to deliver a version of his now famous presentation that formed the basis of “An Inconvenient Truth” to community groups. Just fill out an application online.

It is a fine idea. I’ll be curious whether it works well. There’s always the danger that presenters will be seen as propagandists. Or that, with just the one week’s training, some the presenters will not be equipped to answer questions about the science behind climate change or the strengths and pitfalls of different energy solutions. Even after doing a PhD and working in the field for several years, I still get questions I’m not certain how to answer.

The Greenhouse Network, a grassroots organization based at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, has been sponsoring a similar training program for years now. They hold informative and fun volunteer training sessions each year. The participants are expected to return home afterwards and organize presentations to local students, community groups, etc. I’ve always liked the GHN approach. It is more or less based on a training program for civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s run by the Highlander Education and Research Center.

This all brings to mind the state of climate “activism”. When I went to GHN workshop a few years ago, the goal was mostly to educate college and university students about some of the basic facts of climate science and climate change. The thought was that, like in the past, campuses are the place to start a grassroots movement. And, no doubt, there has in the years since been a push for energy efficiency and emissions reductions on many college campuses and some lobbying by student groups for a national emissions reduction policy (see here).

Still, I don’t sense nearly the “energy” on college campuses over climate change that there was over issues, whether civil rights, war or even other environmental issues, in the decades past. To be blunt, where are the protests? Whether you think protests are an effective way to effect change, or you think the issue is worthy of such energy, or not, isn’t it surprising that with all the supposed interest in climate change there are not more students are marching in the streets?

Maybe the issue is too different, too complex, too nuanced (it can be said that there is no one “bad guy”, though many on college campuses would be happy to paste a smirking Bush photo on the poster)? Maybe the people most likely to organize such activities are focused on the war in Iraq? Maybe blogs are the sit-ins of the 21st century?

Or maybe the times have just changed, and students are now encouraged to work within the system rather than to challenge the system. Just a thought, feel free to write in and tell me I’m wrong.

1 comment:

tim said...

Wow the propaganda goes in today like my fine wine.