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Berkeley Shines the Climate Change Spotlight on Mobilizing Solutions

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Joining with campuses across America, UC Berkeley recently took part in an all-day “Focus the Nation” event, as hundreds gathered at International House to craft their collective concerns about climate change into a clear message for politicians and society at large.

The January 31, 2008 conversation included staff and faculty experts, Berkeley mayor Tom Bates, former three-term assemblywoman Fran Pavley, the head of Norway’s environment ministry, and the executive producer of the film Blood Diamond and the television series Thirtysomething. In addition, many of the attendees participated in student-led breakout sessions to discuss policy and local action.

It was, in many ways, a bad news/good news kind of day. A panel of Berkeley faculty began the morning with a grim look at the planet as “a living organism that has a fever” (in the metaphor of Inez Fung, professor of environmental science, policy, and management). Later, a “solutions panel” explored methods of limiting the extent of warming by controlling carbon emissions.

Campus sustainability specialist Fahmida Ahmed spoke of the need to “transform behavior.” UC Berkeley is now engaged in a comprehensive effort to create a carbon-emissions inventory for campus activities, identify mitigation projects, and, as Ahmed put it, “educate by example.”

Producer and director Marshall Herskovitz, citing “a lack of articulate, clear messaging on what needs to be done,” took the opportunity to promote his new Internet and television series, Quarterlife. A short film clip delivered the message that social commitment is sexy, and Herskovitz called for young people to join in a “societal mobilization such as has not been seen since World War II.”

It was Professor Dan Kammen who may have best captured the spirit of the daylong forum. “This energy crisis is not like your grandmother or grandfather’s, or your father or mother’s energy crisis,” he noted. “Hopefully, events like this will give politicians the backing and the courage to make a new energy and climate policy part of the agenda.”

-Barry Bergman


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