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Focus draws major interest

Lewis and Clark event is one of about 1,700 global warming teach-ins
by: Cliff Newell, Cliff Bekar, economics professor, makes a point during Focus the Nation at Lewis & Clark College last Thursday. The entire college faculty made contributions to the giant teach-in.

Only time will tell if Focus the Nation will have the historical impact on global warming intended by its organizers.

But the enthusiasm across the country was huge after last Thursday, the day global warming activists had been aiming at for nearly two years. Especially at the 'home' of Focus the Nation at Lewis and Clark College.

'I could not have been more impressed with how Focus the Nation went,' said student Kiel Johnson, campus organizer for the event at Lewis and Clark. 'Many rooms here were full or even overflowing with students, but the most exciting thing was walking around campus and overhearing students talking about global warming.

'It was amazing and inspiring to realize that this event was happening at the same time at colleges around the nation.'

The reason Lewis and Clark was home to FTN was because Eban Goodstein, one of its professors, was the founder and director of the event. Goodstein could not be in Lake Oswego last Thursday because he was heading up huge events in New York City and Florida.

However, the commitment to the event on the L and C campus was huge.

'Our program today captures the interest and expertise of our faculty in a variety of ways,' said Michael Ford, associate vice president for student life at Lewis and Clark. 'They're not just focusing on problems. They're focusing on solutions: 'What can we do? How can we do it? How can we take action to address this challenge?''

There were a great many answers at Lewis and Clark, with 30 sessions featuring 50 faculty members and 12 community members. Most were serious and sober, such as the session 'Peak Oil' presented by professors Liz Safran and Bruce Podobnik.

'Global warming is too mild a term for what is happening,' said Podobnik, author of the new book 'Global Energy Shifts.' 'It should be called global frying.'

Of course, the students could find the funny side of global warming, which they did in a hilarious mock debate featuring students portraying presidential candidates, including one non-candidate who managed to dominate the proceedings - 'Bill Clinton.' He did everything, including dropping his pants at one point.

Ford expressed the hope that real presidential candidates would express similar, if more serious, attention.

'Global warming is not front and center with candidates, and it needs to be,' he said. 'Both Republicans and Democrats.'

The big day concluded that evening with a gathering of 3,200 area students at the Chiles Center in Portland. That got the political fires going, because the students confronted politicians about what they are doing about global warming.

'We had a full house, which was very important and exciting,' Johnson said. 'It showed the governor (Ted Kulongoski) and congressmen who were there that people want change.

'If the older generation isn't going to step up, then it will be up to us to solve this problem. Business as usual is not going to cut it.'

In all about 1,700 teach-ins about global warming were held across the U.S., and many famous names came by some major gatherings to lend their support - such as U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Bob Inglis, actors Woody Harrelson and Edward Norton, presidential candidate Barack Obama and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On Friday, Goodstein sent out a newsletter thanking the one million participants for the 'national brainstorm on global warming solutions.'

Young people like Johnson are ready to keep on moving.

'I am proud to be part of what's going on,' he said. 'For the first time in a long time I'm really hopeful that we can create some change.'