GREEN CITY For Van Jones, going green is not just about buying a Prius, putting a solar panel on a vacation home, or purchasing groceries at Whole Foods, which he calls Whole Paycheck. It's also about training former gangsters in green-collar jobs, equitably distributing toxic waste sites, and bringing organic produce into urban ghettos.
According to the Oakland activist, who cofounded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (see "Redefining Radicalism," 9/19/06), there is a serious social injustice on the horizon, and the fight against it may just be the next great political movement in the United States.
Speaking Jan. 30 at San Francisco State University's teach-in on climate change, Jones called on students to be the next great generation by recognizing that the environmental crisis presents the biggest opportunity for poor people and minorities since the New Deal. Today it seems such grandiose statements calling an entire generation to action tend to lack an inspired audience. However, no one could deny Jones was onto something big after the packed crowd in Jack Adams Hall erupted in an ovation after his challenge to students to make history by addressing poverty and the environment together.
Green pathways out of poverty was just one topic discussed during the SFSU segment of "Focus the Nation" billed as the nation's largest-ever teach-in, with more than 1,500 schools and universities participating. The nationally coordinated event aimed to create one day of focused discussion on global warming solutions for the US. Throughout the day expert panels at SFSU discussed green efforts in their respective fields with an underlying message of public involvement.
Keynote speaker Michael Glantz of the National Center for Atmospheric Research jumped on the generational bandwagon, predicting the 21st century would be remembered as the climate century. However, Glantz stressed public pressure would be crucial, as lessons learned about the environment are generally not used during policy making. He cited detailed studies conducted in the early 1970s of melting arctic sea ice due to anthropogenic causes.
When asked how he would reply to arguments that humans aren't causing climate change, Glantz noted the success of the environmental movement in marginalizing these beliefs: "I don't think we need to spend time now dealing with the skeptics when Exxon and Shell are worried about global warming."
Faculty from the SFSU geography and geosciences departments presented new trends in climate change data and modeling, focusing on predictions for California. The panel reported the state's average temperature is on the rise. Even with the best estimates for halting global warming, the Sierra Mountains are expected to lose 40 percent of their snowpack over the next 100 years. Agricultural production and quality in the Central Valley are also expected to decline, as some plants will not get the chill period they need.
Geography professor Andrew Oliphant worked with students to create a carbon footprint calculator for attendees to use throughout the day. Oliphant said the calculator was tailor-made specifically for the event so attendees could analyze their daily habits.
Students were also present throughout the event to answer questions on an informative poster display. The posters depicted breakdowns of greenhouse gases, rising sea levels in the Bay Area, and the formation of acid rain.
Erin Rodgers, an environmental advocate with the California Union of Concerned Scientists, discussed green policies at the state level.