UW-Madison joins largest climate change teach-in in U.S. history

January 23, 2008

On Jan. 30 and 31, the University of Wisconsin–Madison will participate in Focus the Nation, an unprecedented teach-in on global warming solutions with the aim of preparing millions of students to become leaders in responding to the challenge.

The teach-in is centered on three pillars embraced by today’s youth: education, civic engagement and leadership. To date, more than 1,400 institutions around the United States have committed to participate in this ambitious nationwide effort.

"We are in a time where critical decisions need to be made on global warming, which means today’s leaders and the youth who will inherit the crisis need serious education on the issue," says James "Gus" Speth, Dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. "Focus The Nation is our country’s foremost model to create that level of education and interaction with law makers."

The teach-in will begin on the night of Jan. 30, when The 2 Percent Solution, a live, interactive Web cast produced by the National Wildlife Federation will be aired by the Earth Day Network and screened at three locations on the UW–Madison campus. Students and other community members can view and participate in this Web cast at 7 p.m. in 2650 Humanities, 105 Psychology, or 6210 Social Science.

Panelists will include actor Edward Norton, Stanford climate scientist Steve Schneider, Hunter Lovins, CEO, Natural Capitalism and environmental justice leader, Van Jones, executive director, Ella Baker Center in Oakland, Cal.

On Jan. 31, UW–Madison faculty and guest speakers will present an intensive teach-in on global warming in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. The teach-in begins at noon with a kick-off lecture by Jon Foley, the founder and director of the UW–Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE).

Civic leader Nino Amato will then introduce Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who will give a speech entitled "Green Madison Plan" at 1:10 p.m. This will be followed by short presentations by thirteen international experts from the UW–Madison faculty until 5 p.m.

The day’s events will culminate in "Green Democracy," an evening roundtable discussion between students and elected leaders. The conference will take place at 6 p.m. in the Lowell Center, 610 Langdon Street. Confirmed guests include State Reps. Spencer Black and Mark Pocan and State Sen. Mark Miller. Other invited guests include Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, State Sens. Robert Cowles and Fred Risser, and State Reps. Brett Davis and Sondy Pope-Roberts. Should certain members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives not be able join the event in person, Focus the Nation will hold a discussion among students and other organizations.

The final piece of Focus the Nation’s teach-in model will be the Choose Your Future vote. All students, faculty and community participants will be encouraged to vote on what they think are the top five solutions from a list of 10-15 that will be available Jan. 21, 2008 at www.focusthenation.org. Vote results will be presented nationally in mid-February. All students who vote on the Choose Your Future ballot will be eligible to win a $10,000 leadership scholarship for a project to be completed by end of August 2008.

"We are thrilled to be a part of this initiative. This is education at its finest," says James Pawley, professor of zoology at UW–Madison. "It represents the enormous power that youth have when they use their education to create positive change in the world."

Tentative list of speakers includes: Jon Foley — "Living on a Shrinking Planet: Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Future;" Mayor Dave Cieslewicz — "Green Madison Plan;" Jonathan Patz — "Health Effects of Climate Change;" Pete Anderson — "Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Your Diet;" Rick Lindroth — "The Effect of Climate Change on Insects and Plants;" Jack Kloppenburg; Warren Porter — "Climate Change and Animal Change: Calculating Consequences of Adaptation Mechanisms Influencing Future Distributions;" Joe Elder — "India and Global Warming;" Dan Anderson — "Sustainability Risk Management-Global Warming Risks;" Linda Graham — "Aquatic Algae;" Ben Grady — "Biodiversity Loss and Extinction of Plants;" Teri Balser; Chris Vaughn; Tom Eggert — "The Stern Report: The Cost of Business as Usual;" and James Pawley.