Climate Conversation: 2/27/2015

These conversations are designed to permit the NKU community to discuss climate change in a respectful way, and to "prime the pump". We hope that conversations about climate change will continue beyond these "Climate Conversations".

Ground Rules:

Participants agree to abide by the following rules (to be invoked by the moderator, as necessary):

  1. Silence cell phones.
  2. One mic (figuratively speaking — I may use a ball!)
    • only one person speaks at a time
    • no side conversations.
  3. Share the mic (if you've been talking a lot, back off; if you've said nothing, but would like to, ask for the mic).
  4. Ask questions by raising your hand, not by interrupting: the speaker may choose to address questions, or ignore them — it's speaker's choice. But back-and-forth will be only between speaker and questioner — others who wish to join the conversation must raise their hands.
  5. Silent "louder signal" (an "L" when you can't hear). In a large group, the moderator will repeat a question from the audience.
  6. "Three minutes" — one person has the floor for three minutes (or less); then the mic passes to the next person in line.
  7. "Moderator as ref" — the moderator is "the referee", who applies these rules. Anyone who refuses to abide by the rules will be asked to leave: you can get a red card!
  8. Take care of yourself (feel free to get up to go to the bathroom, to get a drink of water, to cool off).

Starters (in case we need them)

  • One focus of the last climate conversation was sustainability. Jane Goode (who attended the first conversation) sent the following definition of environmental sustainability (from NKU's Sustainability Sub-committee of the Facilities Committee of the Strategic Plan):

Environmental sustainability at NKU is the practice of shared stewardship of resources, both natural and man-made, to create and maintain healthful, equitable, livable, and fiscally responsible communities both regionally and globally. Environmental sustainability is the responsibility of all members of the campus community and is fundamental to the university's mission of education and scholarship.

The conversation

About 20 people gathered for the second climate conversation — a mix of students, staff, and faculty. As in our first conversation, a civil discussion ensued.

We began with an announcement about the beginnings of hydroponic ag — Vertical Harvest was mentioned as something folks might want to investigate. We may have to change how we do agriculture in the future, under scenarios of climate change.

There was some discussion of Keystone. That the oil will come through the US, and, although it may be refined by the US, it will not necessarily be used here. US demand is dropping — how will that impact Keystone? The price of oil is probably the primary determinant of what happens with Keystone.

Is it possible to get politics out of the discussion?

  • It's very hard. One has to delve deep on both sides, but pull out and focus on only evidence-based information.
  • It's impossible to write without some slant, of course. Perhaps the most important thing is to identify one's biases.
  • A comment was made about sustainability, and the question we discussed was whether we were more focused on sustaining our environment or our political system.
  • Someone made the point that it will take the politicians and the government to protect the environment — industry doesn't seem to have any interest in doing it, so someone has to rope them in. [Given the current makeup of our government and politicians, that's kind of a scary thing!]

Someone made the point that we have to be careful not to be too gloom-n-doomy — we need to focus on what we can do in a positive way. In particular, we need to be more creative. How can we do that? Someone suggested treehugger, as a good source of ideas.

A student, jokingly referring to herself as part of the "Me Generation", talked about how it's tough to get attention for things longer than 120 letters, etc. So we talked about how to reach the "Me Generation". Creative ideas for that.

Someone said that "present gains and losses loom larger than future losses", so we need perhaps to build in restraint on future populations. We can promise to do things down the road, and then hold the future to them. This seems easier than demanding sacrifice of ourselves…. one might say "obviously", once one thinks about it for a bit!

When does what you know turn into what you do? There was speculation that we used to be more concerned for one another. I asked if that were really true. And there were some comments about that. A student made a plaintive plea for doing something small now: the problem seems to big, it's overwhelming — but one can do something, no matter how small it seems. Pay it forward, another student suggested. So, rather than making things tougher on the future, you make life tougher for yourself now in some way. Usually that's to help someone NOW, of course (rather than "future generations").

Kids are getting stronger. They're getting a better environmental education. On the other hand, the book "Lost Child in the Woods" was cited, with mention of Nature Deficit Disorder. Citizen science was mentioned, including the National Phenology Network. Kids can use their technology to document nature — that's cool! And they get out into nature while they're doing it.

One last comment: someone said in the end it comes down to accountability:

  • personal
  • institutional
  • corporate

We need to account for ourselves, for our actions. We need to be the ones to take on climate change.

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