Sunday, January 27, 2008

Focus the Nation

We Stand at a Critical Time in History

In the next few years, we as a nation will make, or fail to make, critical decisions regarding global warming pollution and clean technology investments. These decisions will have far-reaching and irreversible impacts on the lives of today’s students and the lives of their children. At this moment in time, we owe our young people at least a day of focused discussion about global warming solutions for America.

Focus the Nation is organizing a national teach-in on global warming solutions for America—creating a dialogue at over a thousand colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, places of worship, civic organizations and businesses, and directly engaging millions of students and citizens with the nation’s decision-makers. Focus the Nation will culminate January 31st, 2008 in simultaneous educational symposia held across the country. Our intent is to move America beyond fatalism to a determination to face up to this civilizational challenge, the challenge of our generation.

Focus the Nation is an educational initiative, but we also promote civic engagement. Each Focus team will invite local, state and federal political leaders and decision-makers to come to campus and participate in a non-partisan, round-table discussion of global warming solutions. US Senators and members of congress, state representatives, mayors and city councilors, all will be receiving dozens of invitations to speak about global warming, from over a thousand institutions nation-wide. Every institution will also vote on their top five national priorities for global warming action, producing a campus and citizen endorsed policy agenda for 2008.

Currently over 1000 institutions, mostly colleges and universities, have signed on to participate, and dozens of college and university Presidents have endorsed the initiative. To maximize both education and civic engagement, Focus the Nation has four key components:

NATIONAL TEACH-IN: On January 31st , thousands of students on every campus, millions of students nationwide, participate in workshops and panels, brainstorming global warming solutions. Are you with us? Are your faculty supporting you? Ask ten, twenty, fifty faculty to stand up as educators on behalf of your future. They will say yes. To make this happen, start with the sample teach-in.

GREEN DEMOCRACY: Campus to Congress. Tell top decision-makers in this country about solutions. Invite every US senator and congressperson to engage in person. If they can’t be there physically, then they will face a student audience via a video-chat. Focus the Nation is working with leaders in the House of Representatives to make this happen, in conjunction with their efforts to green the congress. The face-to-face, intergenerational dialogue of Green Democracy will move America to confront this civilizational challenge.

CHOOSE YOUR FUTURE: Vote on the top five solutions to global warming. Proposed solutions range from a coal moratorium, to large scale renewables investment, to initiatives to strengthen forests for carbon storage. Choose the Future is the place for serious discussion about how to achieve what science and justice demand. The week leading up to January 31st, you vote, and your Focus team delivers the results to your congressional office. Every political leader in the country will hear your voice. Join the discussion today!

2% SOLUTION: A national, interactive webcast, airing live the evening of January 30th, featuring Stanford climate scientist Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, and green jobs pioneer Van Jones. Show the webcast to launch your teach-in. Screen it at your high school, faith group, civic organization, or at a house party. Our goal—10,000 screenings and a determination TO STOP GLOBAL WARMING.

With these four components, together we will Focus the Nation.

“I believe that a business as usual scenario will guarantee disintegration of West Antarctica and parts of Greenland” — Dr. James Hansen, 2/2/07

Over the next decade, critical policy decisions will be made with irreversible consequences for the future. Dr. James Hansen, the top US government climate scientist, believes that if we do not stabilize greenhouse gas emissions soon, we may set in motion a process leading to collapse of the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets, events that would raise global sea levels by over 40 feet, inundating many of the world’s major cities. This of course is just one of the myriad potential consequences of human-induced warming, with regional and global impacts ranging from hurricanes of greater intensity and duration, global water shortages, altered patterns of rainfall, drought and flood, massive forest die-back, and large-scale species extinction.

Students today face many important social, economic, and security issues. Global warming however, is unique, in that if we are to reduce the risk of large-scale, irreversible, world-wide damages, then ambitious—and potentially costly—policy solutions must be undertaken within a very compressed time frame. Failure to act soon increases the likelihood of a swing in global temperatures of Ice Age magnitude within our children’s lifetimes, only in the opposite direction. We have a window of time now to create the foundation for a just and sustainable future.

The second motivation for this project is to explore a new model of collaborative, interdisciplinary education, on a national scale. Focus the Nation will require campus-based teams of faculty and students to draw on campus expertise across the broad range of disciplines. Focus the Nation provides an exciting model opportunity to create, for one day, a true national community of scholarship bridging traditional disciplinary boundaries.

This is an opportunity for educators to take a leadership role, and catalyze a process which indeed will “Focus the Nation”. For the last 150 years we have been engaged in an unprecedented natural experiment, drastically altering the basic nature of the planet’s climate control system. Focus the Nation is engaging the country with the question: How far can we let that experiment go?

To be a part of Focus the Nation, simply SIGN UP to participate. By signing up, you are committing to help organize an educational event about global warming solutions at your institution on (or around) January 31st, 2008. This involves, at a minimum, screening The 2% Solution webcast, but the times demand, if at all possible, that we step into a real leadership role as educators in our communities. As colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, faith organizations, businesses, and civic groups come together, we can launch a discussion far-reaching enough to change the future.

Once you sign up, you will receive bi-weekly updates from Focus the Nation that will suggest many ways to build your event. To hold global warming to the low end, we have only a few short years to act. To ensure action, we have only a few short months to Focus the Nation. Please sign up today.

Once you have a launched a Focus the Nation organizing team at your institution, build support for a truly deep conversation by obtaining the endorsement of the following resolutions by your President, Head of School, CEO, Boards of Directors, Student government, Faculty Senate, or Organization. (See who has already endorsed!).