Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trying to make sense of it all

Two weeks on from the "town meeting" on global warming solutions for Illinois I am encountering sensory overload from all the material about alternative energy and global warming washing over me from various sources: the Tribune (wind, coal, corn in recent weeks), New Scientist, Scientific American, podcasts, articles. I feel the need to process it all and respond to it, but it is a daunting task.

The meeting itself was a pleasing success despite an almost complete lack of publicity. I understand that the Campus Greens were the real organizers, but they seemed to have omitted a key component: advertising. Thanks to the efforts of a few faculty members (like me) who bribed/strong-armed their students into attending with incentives of extra credit, the meeting was standing room only - the sort of cosy crush one rarely, if ever, experiences in the rather sterile wastes of the SRC. Thanks to the largess of my department, we had proper amplification and the whole event was recorded, hopefully for wider dissemination at some not-too-distant future. The rent-a-crowd was suitably educated by a diverse panel. To me the most interesting address came from a pastor from United Methodist Church, Downers Grove. It has been my sense that the church (if one can use such collectives meaningfully) has tended to drag its feet vis-a-vis the environment, thinking perhaps that it was identified too closely with the left and all that entailed. The speaker gave an enlightened and spirited call to arms that could speak to all faiths that stewardship of creation is a responsibility borne by all.

Attendees were invited to create a video postcard to send to our representative and many responded. I sensed that many of my students felt better off for having gone, extra credit or no. It is encouraging that many will talk earnestly about buying those CFLs and recycling more and maybe riding a bicycle, and yet a part of me wonders if all those good intentions are misplaced. The issue is much bigger than light bulbs, but I did just buy some myself.

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