posted January 15, 2008

Series of Presentations Focus on Climate Change

Hope College will feature a variety of presentations at the end of the month as part of a nationwide effort to focus attention on the U.S.'s response to global climate change.

Hope is one of approximately 1,300 colleges, universities, high schools and other institutions around the country participating in "Focus the Nation," which will include a national, interactive Web cast on Wednesday, Jan. 30, with locally organized events taking place on the individual sites - including Hope--the following day.

Presentations at Hope open to the public will include addresses on nuclear energy, ecological footprinting and the impact of climate change on wildlife populations, and a panel discussion featuring elected officials and institutional representatives concerning the potential of wind power as an energy source for Holland. Admission is free.

"Focus the Nation" is a project of the non-partisan Green House Network of Lake Oswego, Ore., and is designed, according to the program's Web site, as "a national teach-in on global warming solutions for America."

"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," the site notes. "These decisions will have far-reaching and irreversible impacts on the lives of today's students and the lives of their children."

Dr. K. Greg Murray of the Hope biology faculty has been the lead planner of the events at Hope. He concurs with the national site's sense of urgency regarding the topic.

"The climate is changing pretty rapidly, and we have a very short window of time in which to reduce carbon emissions to avert the worst effects," said Murray, who is also a member of the board of directors of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

He noted that the U.S. bears a particular responsibility to address climate change as the largest per-capita generator of carbon emissions and the largest absolute producer of such emissions until China catches up.

"We're also a rich country that has the capacity to develop solutions," he said. "And if we don't do so within the next couple of decades we're going to see huge environmental and ultimately economic and human-suffering implications."

The activities at Hope will begin a day in advance of the national Web cast. The college's "Inquiring Minds" philosophy organization will host an open discussion of the topic "How should we react to global climate change?" on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 4:30 p.m. in the Kletz Snack Bar on the lower level of the DeWitt Center.

Hope will share the national, interactive Web cast, titled "The 2% Solution," on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m. in room 1000 of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center. The Web presentation will feature Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, green jobs pioneer Van Jones and youth climate leaders. The session's title reflects the premise that industrialized nations need to cut their emission levels by two percent per year to hold global warming to 3-4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

The activities at Hope on Thursday, Jan. 31, will begin at 9:30 a.m. in room 1019 of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center with "The Role of Nuclear Energy in Combating Climate Change," a lecture and discussion led by Dr. Donald Williams, professor emeritus of chemistry. Williams spent 1988-89 as an expert educational consultant for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management in the U.S. Department of Energy and has subsequently toured the country discussing nuclear energy issues, for which he has won state and national American Nuclear Society Communication Awards.

Murray will lead the interactive workshop "What's My Ecological Footprint?" on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 1:30 p.m. in room 3046 of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center. Murray's interests include ecology and evolutionary biology, especially in plant/animal interactions, community ecology, and vertebrate feeding ecology.

The lecture and discussion "Global Climate Change and Its Consequences for Wildlife Populations" will take place on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 4 p.m. in room 1019 of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center. The session will be led by Dr. Eldon Greij, professor emeritus of biology. Greij is an ornithologist and founder of "Birder's World" magazine.

The activities at Hope will conclude with the panel discussion "Wind Power: Reality and Potential in Holland, Michigan" on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. in room 102 of VanderWerf Hall. Participants will include State Senator Patty Birkholz of Michigan's 24th District; Loren Howard, general manager of the Holland Board of Public Works; Steven Kooy, a senior environmental engineer with Haworth Inc.; Greg Maybury, director of operations at Hope; Albert McGeehan, mayor of Holland; Paul Murray, director of environmental health and safety with Herman Miller Inc.; and Rich VanderVeen, chief executive officer of Mackinac Power LLC, which generates energy from wind turbines.

In addition to the activities open to the general public, the college's Phelps Dining Hall will feature the theme "Think Global, Eat Local" through its lunch menu for students on Thursday, Jan. 31. The meal will feature Michigan foods, and the Creative Dining Services staff will highlight other initiatives to emphasize local products.

More about "Focus the Nation," including a link to the national Web site, can be found online at www.hope.edu/academic/biology/focusthenation/FTNhome.htm

The A. Paul Schaap Science Center is located at 35 E. 12th St., at 12th Street and College Avenue. VanderWerf Hall is located at 27 Graves Place, between 10th Street and Graves Place (11th Street) and Central and College avenues.