I think its worth responding to David’s thoughtful speculations about the nature of the upcoming Focus the Nation teach-in on Tuesday.
Will the teach-in on global warming on Tuesday be any different? I doubt it, but I respect Morgan Goodwin a great deal. If any of the presenters argue that a) global warming isnít that serious a concern or that, b) however serious, there isnít much that we can do about carbon emissions via government fiat or c) that the most important human value is freedom and that you have no more right to control my carbon emissions than my speech or d) that Williams, as an institution, should have no more involvement with the political issues surrounding global warming than it does with those involved with fighting malaria, then I will be proved wrong. Perhaps TNG will surprise me with their open-mindedness and commitment to free-wheeling debate.
First, the numbers: Currently 92 professors are ‘participating’ in Focus the Nation. That means 15 professors will spend the entire class period on Monday or Tuesday discussing climate change. Another 9 will spend part of class time doing so. The majority will spend at least 5 minutes discussing why climate change is relevant, interesting or concerning to their discipline, and a final 12-15 have agree to make an announcement to their class about the day’s events and encourage students to attend panel discussions or the talk by Christopher Flavin. These numbers aren’t final, and we expect to cross the 100 mark tomorrow.
We typically approached professors we knew, occasionally making an appointment with someone we didn’t know, and would drop by an office to chat for 5 minutes or an hour about what the event was and why it was important. Much more often than not, we didn’t have to suggest how climate change was relevant to the professors field of study, but rather listened when they told us of something they had read recently, or some inspiration of their own.
In that regard, all of your questions may be addressed over the course of the day, David. I really have no idea what professors intend to talk about in class. But I suspect those won’t be the contentious issues at stake, from what I’ve heard around campus so far. Likely the really contentious issues will be things like a) cap and auction vs. carbon tax, b) whether some groups are responsible for causing harm to other groups via climate change, c) what we can do to mediate the effects of climate change on human populations (or non-human for that matter), d) do we as ephs, Americans, the global north, etc. have a responsibility to act, e) does our dependence on oil further political instability in the middle east, or f) what areas of physics promise advances in solar technology.
A number of professors turned us down. I don’t have as exact numbers on that, but a quick glance shows about a dozen that said no. Some said they don’t like to bring politics into the classroom, and others said it wasn’t relevant and not worth class time. Of course a lot never returned our emails, or we just never got to, because after all, we’re a bunch of busy students working on top of classes and finals, and then so many professors are hard to find during winter study when we actually have time. Oh well.
Regardless of how the day goes, the students who have worked on this have impressed me with their enthusiasm, energy, creativity and commitment.? ? To Meredith, Elizabeth, Caroline, George, Sasha, Kendell, Martin, Nathan, Mike, Melina and all the others who have pitched in as we’ve approached the big day, thank you. I am confident that this will be the biggest student-organized event in the recent history of the school.