Climate-change talk heats up

My View • New generation takes proactive approach Thursday

By Bill Barnes, Chris Lambert and Andrew O'Keefe

It's coming soon to a school near you. On Thursday, students, citizens and elected officials will join in a nationwide, daylong educational conversation to 'Focus the Nation' on global warming solutions.

Centered on campuses across the country and started by Eban Goodstein, a professor at Lewis and Clark College, this historical event already is much bigger than many anticipated. There are 1,500 organizations signed up to participate across the country.

Students are rightly horrified when they learn of the risks involved with climate change.

The nightmarish predictions from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 2007 reads more like a comic book horror scenario than a scientific certainty.

Rising seas? Accelerated species extinction? More intense hurricanes? Harsher droughts? More rain in the Northwest? The report argues these things will happen, particularly if we continue business as usual.

In this time of disbelief, in which our very way of life is confronted, humans must dare to transition to a more sustainable world. An important first step is to stabilize and then reduce greenhouse gas emissions, starting yesterday.

Although the public now agrees that climate change is alarming, many of us seem mired in our old habits. Sadly, it's true - the older you get, the more set in your ways you become. That's why it is so important for the young to take on this challenge; it is their future.

The student-led sustainable climate movement in Oregon is impressive.

At least 17 Oregon college campuses will host Focus the Nation events Thursday, and many other institutions in the state also are involved.

Although sparked by Goodstein, a main driver behind the success of this day are students. Students are telling their professors and their elected officials that the time has come to openly discuss the issue and focus on solutions.

Organizations such as the Sierra Student Coalition and the student-led Cascade Climate Network have sprung up and offer thoughtful analysis on how to achieve a clean and just energy future.

In a founding 'declaration,' the Cascade Climate Network outlines local strategies for energy efficiency and conservation; promotion of renewable and clean energy sources; and phasing out fossil fuels in the state over time.

This is a moment filled with hope and possibility. Thursday will be a landmark day of collaboration. The time has come for our society to attempt one of the most dramatic transitions in the history of industrialized society.

We must redesign our way of life to a sustainable form that can carry us through the centuries without the threats of toxic pollutants and an overtaxed climate. The change starts now: Let's make this the year for the rest of our lives.

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Bill Barnes is an associate professor in economics and environmental studies at the University of Portland and chairman of the committee planning Focus the Nation: Live at the Chiles Center, which starts at 5 p.m. Thursday. Chris Lambert is a junior majoring in environmental science, and Andrew O'Keefe is a senior majoring in finance, both at the University of Portland.