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Nationwide 'teach-in' planned to address climate change

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Mr. Goodstein is an economics professor at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., and an author on environmental issues. The pace needs to pick up in order to hold global warming to low levels before it is too late, he says. "We owe our young people some focused discussion about the critical importance of the choices that are going to get made over the next couple years."

The impact of Focus the Nation depends on whether it preaches to the choir or fulfills its potential to reach a broader audience and inspire long-term commitment. A key question is, "Will [the students] take the message to their parents and grandparents?... Will it move from the campus teach-ins to the backyard barbecues of early summer?" says Gordon Mitchell, a communication professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied rhetoric and social movements. "That will in large part determine if this is a wave, versus a ripple."

The Focus the Nation website (www.focusthenation.org) has offered templates for activities, but a decentralized network of faculty, students, and other volunteers has seized the opportunity to tailor events for local audiences. Professors in fields as diverse as astronomy, economics, and classics will use class time to link their subjects to climate change.

That's what appeals to Galen Brown, the 19-year-old student coordinator for events at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "It targets everybody," he says. "One of the biggest problems with the climate campaign over the past few years has been the negativity.... I think it's best to harp on the positive – how we can stop [global warming] and how businesses can be efficient and make money while being green."

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