Climate Change Heats Up At Oberlin
The sun shone down upon Oberlin’s first Global Climate Change Symposium last Saturday. Seven experts in related fields, including five Oberlin professors, spoke about the effects of climate change. Sophomore Meagan Forney came up with the idea of the symposium last fall and with 20/20 project coordinator Paige Wiegman helped coordinate the event. “We hope that this was just a start of a campus-wide discussion about our contribution to climate change and the ways we can reduce our effects as individuals and a community,” Forney and Wiegman said.
Professor of Environmental studies David Orr, public health expert Devra Davis, Professor of Geology Steve Wojtal, Geology Research Associate Dennis Hubbard, disaster expert Benjamin Wisner, Assistant Professor of Environmental studies John Petersen and Visiting Professor of Economics Dick Morgenstern each gave short presentations about the effects of global warming on their respective fields.
Orr compared the current moral dilemma to that of slavery, and called inaction “intergenerational tyranny.” Later, he spoke with more optimism. “This is one of the first times in our history that the smart thing to do and the right thing to do converge in the same policies,” Orr said.
One question from the audience asked what could be done to convince the public they were in jeopardy. “I think that is the wrong question,” Devra said, adding, “The purpose of public policy is to prevent harm from happening, not to prove it is happening.”
Hubbard challenged those skeptics. “Scientists are never 100 percent sure of anything,” Hubbard said. He continued, saying that our choices were to clean up our air and water and find that global climate change was not a threat, or to find ourselves in trouble. Petersen said of the choices posed to society, “People who are suffering make very short-term decisions. We have to make decisions now.”
Morgenstern spoke about how economic incentives could encourage people to begin making more environmentally conscious decisions. “Fundamentally, if something is free people are going to take advantage of it,” he said, referring to the current price of giving off emissions. Morgenstern, a Washington, D.C native gave some advice about how to turn heads in his home city. “Politicians don’t lead, they basically follow. Any change must come from the people.”
For Forney and Wiegman, this is only the beginning. “This was a first step in heightening people’s awareness of their effects, showing individuals the impacts of their day to day choices and building a bigger voice to encourage large systematic changes to deal with climate change,” they said.
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