Climate Conversations, sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, held their first meeting to engage the campus community in a conversation related to global climate change.
Included in this conversation were ways to bring about change for a more sustainable society, including presubmitted and live questions.
The Climate Conversations, hosted by Paul Scanlon, the director of sustainability, and Julie Snow, a professor or geography, geology and environment, were on a panel with other noteworthy panelists.
“The idea came to me that this pandemic has really changed behaviors, not just for the university but for the whole world,” Scanlon said.
Also included in the discussion were Larry Schweiger, the former president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation; Becky Lubold, a retired Jennings Environmental Education Center environmental educator; Shawn Davis, an assistant professor of parks, conservation and recreational therapy; and Christine Glenn, a 2004 graduate of SRU with a master’s in sustainable systems.
The first discussion would host 16 participants and the first topic was based on carbon emissions.
Scanlon said that there were many potential solutions, however, it is hard to understand how one is better than the next. An example Scanlon gave was the En-ROADS Climate Interactive Simulation to focus on changes in energy, economic, and public policy.
Schweiger also believes that there are a set of things the community can do to set carbon emissions. However, he believes there is a political aspect.
“The challenge is that we need to find solutions that politicians will support,” Scweiger said. “Clearly it is a matter of politics as much as it is a matter of technology, the technology is there.”
Seconding the political aspect of the climate conversation, Snow said that the most important action anyone can take is to become politically active and involved.
“Equity is important, and getting leaders that are going to be approaching the changes and making sure they are looking at the equitable aspects that work for everyone,” Snow said.
Although agriculture is PA’s largest economic factor, the second question of the night, asked by Frances Amatucci was based on “how potentially harmful are the rollback on environmental protection policy during this Administration, and can these harmful effects be reversed?
Schweiger recognized that the notion of reversing some of the damage, is an important one.
“The marketplace is driving the change that some politicians have failed to do,” Schweiger said. “Can we reverse it? I am hopeful that we can. It is important for us to come and address some of these issues in a more aggressive way. Time in not on our side.”
On the opposing end of change, Darla Sterling, a dietician by profession, said that “it is in my understanding that a lot of pushback for non-change is from corporations who receive significant federal and government ‘subsidies.'”
Scanlon believes that the lobbyists are the ones working to see that the old policies are examined and adjusted.
Schweiger said that it is tough and that one of the tools in FarmVille today is the insurance program. He said that farmers get subsidized insurance, and the best way to get at the entire issue of subsidy is to concentrate on the insurance program.
However, there are those who do not believe in science. John Golden asked “if much of the country doesn’t believe in science, ie, epidemiology, why do you think they will believe climate science?”
Golden said that for years, he believed that [society] was moving towards a point to where they would all understand climate science.
Schweiger said that this belief is a long-term fight, and the idea that science is under attack has been a strategy for the industry for a long time.
“It is important that we get our media to understand how dire this is,” Schweiger said. “Every now and then we get a spur. Science matter and science is pointing in ways that are really alarming. it’s a serious matter that people don’t believe in science.”
Starting education of climate science at a young age is something that Snow believes will help with awareness. She would be pushing to get climate education as a requirement across all school curriculums in the K-12 program and even across colleges in order to graduate.
“Our current platform of education that I see my daughter going through, we aren’t meeting the needs of science education, and we certainly aren’t teaching anything about climate science,” Snow said.
Scanlon said that they are hoping to reach out to more students, staff and faculty through these conversations.
“We have ten years to turn this climate change thing around, to reduce our carbon emissions to a point that the global temperature won’t hit a tipping point,” Scanlon said. “What we do today is a lot more important than what we plan to do next year.”
With continued interest, Climate Conversations will occur on the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. The next conversation will take place on Oct. 7.