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by David Yogi, staff writer

 

An assortment of student organizations and faculty members recently participated in the nationwide Focus the Nation initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit event that aims to engage students in addressing problems caused by climate change.

As part of the initiative, professors from all areas of study were asked to participate in a campus wide teach-in by allocating a portion of class to discuss the climate change and what to do about it.
HPU’s participation was organized by the Vegetarian Club and the Sustainability Club.

“ Basically, what we wanted to do is encourage all fields of study at the University to be included in discussing global warming in their lectures through this program,” said Lorenzo Nava, Vegetarian Club president.

“ This event was a great opportunity for students to gain a clear understanding of how global warming will affect their lives.”

In addition to the teach-in, a viewing of the Focus the Nation live national Webcast and a voter registration drive were held on campus.

Unique to the national initiative was the number of student-led groups that organized local teach-ins, Webcast viewings, and voter registration drives. Such widespread organization reveals young people’s support for finding ways to address global warming; college students, a national age demographic usually considered disinterested in current events, appears to have taken on a new purpose in the 21st century.

If the widespread outpouring of student effort and attention is any indication, the need to stop global warming, a challenge unknown to former generations, has enlisted the support of countless young people, not just environmentalists, across the country.

So why the Vegetarian Club?
“ Vegetarianism is sustainable by definition,” Nava explained. “Our food choices have significant consequences on the environment.”

According to the New York Times, the increasing global demand for meat products by industrial countries has led to surging amounts of energy consumption for feed, transportation, and cattle themselves “generate significant greenhouse gases.”

From the article, beef requires nearly 16 times more fossil fuel energy to raise than the amount needed for vegetables and rice. Further, the amount of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, emitted in the process of raising beef is 24 times greater than that of rice and vegetables.

The amount of energy used to raise animals for human consumption is only one of the myriad of ways human activity has an impact on the environment.

“ Just changing the way people shop for groceries,” said Nava, “might have a bigger impact without making a huge dent in people’s bank account or their lifestyle. One of the easiest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without major changes in the way [people] live is to simply change what they have for dinner. That doesn’t involve buying a new car or putting up solar panels.”

Why did Nava, a New Mexico native and graduate nursing student, take up the cause of global warming?

It was a desire, he said, to be “treating others how I would like to be treated and giving this generation and the next an environment that is better than the one we have now.

“ As leader of the club,” Nava said, “there was an opportunity to inform and organize large numbers of people to help with the initiative.”

HPU’s teach-in was one of more than 1,900 Focus the Nation teach-ins held across the United States in universities, colleges, high school, faith organizations, and civic groups, according to the Focus the Nation Web site.

First conceived in 2006 by a professor at Lewis and Clark University, Focus the Nation has received wide-support from a variety of nonprofit, for-profit, religious groups, academic institutions, notable politicians, and celebrities.

Government officials, including Senator Barack Obama and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and celebrities such as Edward Norton and Woody Harrelson have pledged their support of the initiative.

Organizations such as Think MTV and the National Wildlife Federation have sponsored this national effort. Major businesses such as Cliff Bar and Nike have provided financial support and faith organizations such as the United Church of Christ and The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life have helped to promote the event.

 

 

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