How Focus the Nation Will Work

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To move us toward this future, Focus the Nation is asking each participating campus to begin a deliberative process about policy options facing the nation in the coming decade. The goal is to get more than a thousand campuses involved. Educational institutions are a natural foundation for this national conversation: faculty and students organize symposia frequently, one-day events are quite simple to organize, and most educational institutions already have substantial faculty expertise available. Once a campus has committed to organizing its own event, it can focus on getting groups at similar institutions as well as business and community leaders to do the same. The Focus the Nation organizing committee, at the national level, will then help tie these individual campus and community-based discussions together. On the Focus the Nation day itself, each campus will endorse online a list of their top three priorities for national action in the next decade. This information can later be used to keep these issues in front of the nation's top policy makers.

Meeting these goals will mean involving approximately five thousand to ten thousand students and faculty as symposia organizers and another twenty thousand faculty, students, alums, and community members as symposia presenters, all engaging several million college and K-12 school students in day-long discussions of the climate agenda for the next decade. Each Focus the Nation site will be encouraged to end its event in the same way: by holding a nonpartisan roundtable with political leaders, elected officials, and political candidates. Imagine all one hundred U.S. senators in the country receiving invitations to come talk about clean-energy solutions to global warming at dozens of different schools in their states on the same day! Beyond campuses, faith, business, and civic organizations are also participating. The potential for this event is huge: it could catalyze the climate movement, playing the same kind of role as the original Earth Day in 1970.

What will a Focus the Nation event look like? In the summer of 2006, a couple dozen faculty, students, and staff at my school, Lewis and Clark College, hammered out one vision with three goals. First, do justice to the complexity of the subject of global warming solutions; nothing is off the table for debate. Second, involve every academic department on campus as educators. This issue is not an environmental issue; it is a civilizational challenge. Fac-ulty—from religious studies to theater and from computer science to anthropology—all have important insights to offer as we grapple with solutions. Finally, involve students, alums, and community members in discussion.

The Focus the Nation day will start the evening of January 30, 2008, with a national podcast keynote speech by a prominent climate scientist. Throughout the next day, concurrent with classes, will be interdisciplinary plenary sessions in our school's largest venue: the gym. We are looking for serious engagement on the part of the entire campus. At many schools, presidents, faculty senates, and student governments will have endorsed the Focus the Nation resolution:

Global warming presents a serious challenge to the well-being of both people and natural systems across the planet. Public and private policy decisions to be made in the next decade regarding global warming pollution and technology investments will have impacts lasting for generations. Therefore, on or about January 31, 2008, [institution], in conjunction with colleges and universities across the country, will hold a symposium focusing on "Global Warming Solutions for America." On that day, faculty are strongly encouraged either to incorporate a focus on climate change into their classes, or else travel with their class to attend symposia programming related to their discipline. The symposium program committee will work with interested faculty to develop appropriate material for their classes, and to insure that throughout the day, diverse disciplines are represented in symposium panels and workshops.2

Focus the Nation is not calling for classes to be canceled and faculty will face no mandate to participate. Yet we anticipate broad and exciting involvement as teachers across the curriculum bring leading scholarship from their field into the classroom. At Lewis and Clark, we are hopeful that the entire body of students, faculty, and staff will attend some of, if not all, the day's events. The final event at Lewis and Clark, as all over the country, will be a nonpartisan roundtable (not a debate) including students and local, state, and national political leaders. Focus the Nation will engage thousands of the politicians at all levels in serious campus dialogue about global warming and the future that young people face.

But Focus the Nation won't stop there. At our Lewis and Clark planning meeting, we realized that Portland State, University of Portland, Northwest School of Law, Reed College, and Pacific University as well as Rock Creek, Sylvania, and Portland community colleges would be participating. So would a dozen high schools and two dozen mosques, temples, synagogues, and churches. Civic organizations and businesses would also be holding events. Someone suggested that we reserve a large basketball arena and get a top-notch band to play. After the band warms up the crowd, let's have Oregon's two U.S. senators, Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden—one a

Republican, the other a Democrat—take center stage with half a dozen students—two Republicans, two Democrats, and two Independents—and have an open conversation about U.S. solutions to global warming.

As Chungin and I have spoken at colleges across the country, this same conversation, and this same broad vision for Focus the Nation, keeps getting replicated. Focus the Nation will start out, and be rooted in, serious, academic, campus-based discussions about the critical policy choices the nation faces in the next decade, but we are increasingly excited by the prospect that it will become much more than that. Across the country, we believe that Focus the Nation events will spill out from campuses, and places of worship, and businesses, and civic clubs, to culminate in regional town meetings. American concern about global warming is growing, and America's engagement with clean-energy solutions is growing. Focus the Nation can be the moment at which this rising awareness coalesces into a unified national voice for action. It can be the beginning of the clean-energy era, which, like the Progressive Era, fundamentally transforms the politics of the United States, creates the tools needed to rewire the entire planet with clean energy, and lays the economic foundation for a century of American prosperity.

Or not. Time will tell and may have already told. This chapter catches me in the enthusiasm of a vision for the future, a vision that prevents vast human suffering and the mass extinction of many of the beautiful creatures with which we share the planet, a vision that offers a way out of a trajectory toward a hot planet.

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