Focus the Nation events cover climate changes

Sustainability mixers, climate change discussions, and political debates on energy and the economy will take over the University Center on Wednesday as Sustainable Earth hosts Focus the Nation, its second campus-wide teach-in on global warming.

“Focus the Nation is mostly about education,” said Sarah Strano, a junior civil engineering major and Sustainable Earth vice president. “We’re trying to educate as many people as possible about all aspects of climate change.”

Focus the Nation is not unique to Carnegie Mellon, but is rather part of a national movement.

Created in 2006 by a professor at Lewis and Clark College, the project is currently funded by the Green House Network, a nonprofit organization aimed at educating young people.

Focus the Nation hosts lectures at universities nationwide, campaigns for global warming legislation, and aims to promote general climate change awareness.

“Focus the Nation is like a focal point to get [Sustainable Earth] started,” said Daisy Wang, a sophomore civil engineering major and Sustainable Earth member.

Wang commented on the growth she has seen in the number of people joining Sustainable Earth and other environmental groups on campus, and hopes that Focus the Nation will only encourage more to increase their awareness.

Strano mentioned that she was especially excited for the keynote address that will kick off this year’s three-day Focus the Nation event.

“We were really lucky to bring Peter Tertzakian here this year,” Strano said.

Tertzakian is an energy expert, the chief energy economist and director of ARC Financial Corporation, and the award-winning author of A Thousand Barrels a Second.

The days’ events will include a presentation from the Green Practices Committee, a lecture on alternative transportation, and a discussion on the ethics and business of environmental policy.

Unique to this year, many of the events will encompass the “First 100 Days” theme.

On Thursday at 7 p.m., Cliff Davidson, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, will host a webcast and discussion on Obama’s proposed environmental policy.

On Friday at 3:30 p.m., presenters from the Pittsburgh Project, a nonprofit community development organization, and Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama will lead a session on how to get involved in the community and to promote civic engagement for a sustainable future.

Vanessa Schweizer, a doctoral student in engineering and public policy and a key Focus the Nation organizer in Sustainable Earth, commented on the special timing of this year’s teach-in.

“We have a new President and a new Congress,” Schweizer said. “We’ve also known about [global warming] for more than 20 years now and we haven’t done anything. Now is the time.”

Schweizer expressed her excitement at seeing the campus turn out at this week’s events.

“We have a lot of faculty and senior students working on things to address climate change and the energy crisis. It just makes sense [to have this event],” she said.

Schweitzer mentioned she is most looking forward to the Heinz Talks, Part II. On Friday at noon, Lee Branstetter, a professor in the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, and Costa Samaras, a professor in the department of engineering and public policy, will debate if market-based incentives are sufficient to solve the climate change problem.

This talk is a follow-up on October’s Heinz Talks, Part I, in which Branstetter and Granger Morgan, a professor in the department of engineering and public policy, heatedly exchanged their views on the U.S. cap-and-trade economic policy.

As of Friday evening, Focus the Nation will officially end.

Austin Redwood, an junior Humanities and Arts Scholar and president of Sustainable Earth, expressed his hope that students take some of the message away with them.

“People should use their discipline, or what they’re studying, and attach it to climate change,” Redwood said. “Especially with Obama working so fast, there is so much to think about.”

More information on the Focus the Nation national project and events can be found at [SLANT12][SLANT12]