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Teach-in Educates Campus, Community on Climate Change

February 5, 2008

Students, faculty, staff and the local community gathered in UC Merced’s Bobcat Lair on Jan. 31 to learn from each other about just about every aspect of global climate change – from sea ice to protest songs.

Eleven professors, including Chancellor Steve Kang, Dean Jeff Wright of the School of Engineering and Acting Director Roger Bales of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, shared their scientific and social expertise to address what’s happening to the planet’s climate, how it’s affecting the human population, and how people can make a difference.

The diversity of presentations made for a day that everyone could enjoy. For example, Professor Lara Kueppers’ presentation about climate-ecosystem feedbacks like cloud cover and melting sea ice and how they contribute to global climate change was followed by Professor Kevin Fellezs’ sharing two pivotal moments in the history of protest music – Pete Seeger’s “God Bless the Grass” and Metallica’s performance at Live Earth.

Students made a contribution, as well. One of them, Elijah Meeks, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in World Cultures and History with Professor Ruth Mostern, pointed out the importance of integrating climate information into our understanding of history and vice versa.

As robust climate models continue to grow, we should explore ways to integrate social and political responses to climate into those models,” he said.

In addition to faculty and student presentations, four guests from the National Park Service joined the group to talk about climate change in the national parks, especially Yosemite. Yosemite’s park geologist, Greg Stock, pointed out the loss of some of the park’s glaciers, and Lee Tarnay delved further into how climate change is affecting Yosemite. Jesse Chakrin followed up with information about how the national parks are responding to these changes.

The UC Merced administration also played a part, with Campus Energy Manager John Elliott sharing information about the campus’ response to climate change. UC Merced is one of the most energy-efficient university campuses in the world, and the campus sustainability program is setting even higher goals for the future.