Students focusing the nation for solutions to global warming

February 4 2008

TERRE HAUTE - As a doctoral student in ecology, Justin St. Juliana understands the science behind global warming.

Yet, his concern about it strikes a little closer to his heart.

“Having a son, I’m clearly concerned about what will happen in 20 years,” the Indiana State University student from Wheaton, Ill., said.

Beginning Wednesday night (Jan.31), students at ISU and more than 1,600 other colleges and universities across the United States took part in Focus The Nation through a concentrated look at global warming.

Charles Amlaner, chair of the department of ecology and organismal biology and ISU’s campus organizer of the Focus The Nation program, said educating the students can have a multiplying effect as they share their knowledge with others and become leaders in the future.

“They become part of the solution instead of the problem,” he said. “With students we can transform their minds from users and abusers of the environment to thinking about what they can do to stop using and abusing. Then we begin the process of healing the globe one student at a time.”

During the day-long event on Thursday, about 50 ISU faculty members discussed global warming in classes, students gathered to watch films about different aspects of global warming and the environment, and listened to experts on global warming. The day ended with a viewing of "The Natural Heritage of Indiana: The Indiana That Was," based upon a book edited by Marion Jackson, an ISU ecology and organismal biology professor emeritus.

“The fact that we got the campus community to be thinking about global warming and solutions to this looming crisis, is in itself a huge undertaking and measure of success,” Amlaner said. “Getting the word out to a diverse group of students and teachers -- we had people from theater, political science, English, chemistry, ecology, geology, science education, among others -- and focusing attention on the need for communication between the global warming supporters and our politicians, also is good news for the community we serve.”

Communication is necessary to foster support in battling global warming, according to one student.

“I think there’s still a lot of controversy in the public’s mind about global warming,” said Wynnell Lebsack, a graduate student in ecology and organismal biology from Albuquerque. “Today is a good day to bring the public and scientists together to talk about the issues.”

Jennifer Latimer, ISU assistant professor of geology, described global warming as an effect of on-going war with Mother Nature.

“We’re in a battle with Mother Nature for control,” she said in a speech entitled “The Climate System: Nature vs. Nurture.” “If we are able to get control of the earth system, it will only be bad for us.”

For millions of years, the earth has managed to regulate its temperature through plate tectonics, earth-sun geometry and changes in the sun’s strength. However, the release of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, has impacted the earth’s ability to regulate itself.

“We’re exceeding the natural variability of the climate system,” she said.

In a question and answer session with audience members, there were suggestions such as building green structures; turning off water when brushing teeth; and not just recycling, but reusing and repurposing items.

“We got into this collectively,” Latimer said. “Collectively, we need to find a solution.”

Lebsack also suggested several ways an individual could impact global warming, such as leaving lights off, not being fossil fuel-dependent and urging politicians to create change.

“A lot of solutions happen in everyday life,” she said. “What can affect climate change are the little things.”

Amlaner said the day was so successful there are already plans for another event in 2009.

“On any initiative of this nature, success is in the fruit of our effort,” Amlaner said. “Now that we have a firmly established environmental awareness about global change issues and some solutions, we have established the foundation to launch the campus' new sustainability move to reduce and/or become carbon neutral in all aspects of campus life. I think we have a great start on that goal with the Focus The Nation exercise.”

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Contact: Charles Amlaner, Indiana State University, chair of the department of ecology and organismal biology, at 812-237-2405 or camlaner@indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@indstate.edu

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/249470829-D.jpg

Cutline: Jennifer Latimer, ISU assistant professor of geology, discusses global warming in a speech entitled “The Climate System: Nature vs. Nurture” as part of Focus The Nation on Thursday (Jan. 31).

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Story Highlights

Beginning Wednesday night (Jan.31), students at ISU and more than 1,600 other colleges and universities across the United States took part in Focus The Nation through a concentrated look at global warming.

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