Share this:
01/29/2008 08:00:00

Caltech Joins National Global-Warming Teach-In

PASADENA, Calif.--Did you know that it takes about the energy found in 1.4 liters of gasoline to make a cheese pizza? The energy cost of producing food is one focus the California Institute of Technology will take as it participates in a nationwide effort to engage schools in global-warming solutions.

On Wednesday and Thursday, January 30–31, Caltech will join more than 1,100 universities across the country for an unprecedented teach-in organized by Focus the Nation.

Focus the Nation is an initiative to draw attention to global warming through a teach-in that will engage faculty, students, staff, and community members. It is centered on what they consider to be the three most essential pillars needed for today's youth to embrace solutions to global warming: education, civic engagement, and leadership. Organizers chose the January date because it coincides with the beginning of the 2008 primary election season. They intend to stir a nonpartisan national discussion about confronting the challenge of climate stabilization.

Among the coordinators for Caltech's participation are graduate students Morgan Putnam and Asa Hopkins and undergraduate Aryan Safaie. Hopkins was inspired to host the event after hearing a speech by Focus the Nation project director Eban Goodstein at a campus sustainability conference at UC Santa Barbara last summer. Goodstein is an economics professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, who took a two-year hiatus from teaching to champion this cause.

The teach-in officially kicks off at 8 p.m. on January 30 in Beckman Institute Auditorium with a live, interactive webcast of "The 2% Solution", in which climate scientists and experts in related fields will discuss global-warming solutions and tackle viewers' questions. The title of the webcast reflects the idea that developed countries must cut roughly two percent of their current emissions per year in order to arrest global warming at an ultimate minimum of around four degrees Farenheit.

At lunchtime on January 31, the Caltech chapter of the Engineers for a Sustainable World invites the campus and community to join the Focus the Nation effort with an angle on food choices. They will provide fliers to inform lunchtime patrons at Chandler Dining Hall about where their food originates, the energy it takes to provide the meals, the environmental consequences of growing and buying food, and suggestions for minimizing impact.

Among other options, diners can select locally-caught fish topped with a salsa concocted from grapefruit from the backyard of Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau and California-grown kiwi and blood oranges, with a side of California-grown broccoli and cauliflower. The event organizers will also sponsor a contest that quizzes consumers about energy-related food choices. Which is the most energy-efficient option: a cardboard pizza box, a porcelain plate, or a compostable plate? The winner scores free pizza for a week.

"Focus the Nation gives us a coordinated chance to broaden the conversation at Caltech. Often we're very research focused, and that's good, but we also need to remember that our actions outside of the lab matter, too," comments Hopkins.

Written by elisabeth nadin