UVM joins 1400 colleges to “Focus the Nation”

During this past week’s Focus the Nation events, President Fogel announced the University’s new commitment to climate. At the event, President Daniel Mark Fogel introduced the new Office of Sustainability, a commission on sustainability and the change in our environmental commission to a forum. From January 27th to February 1st, UVM participated in Focus the Nation. This “national educational initiative on global warming solutions for America” hosted a series of events to further educate the students of the University on global climate change. UVM held over 80 teach-ins and 30 events throughout the week which were in conjunction with 16 departments across campus. Dr. Stephanie Kaza, both a professor at UVM and a speaker for the climactic event SPEAK OUT, stated that UVM is in the top 5 percent of over 1,000 universities participating in Focus the Nation across the entire country. At a performance this past Tuesday, Donald Knaack, also known as “The Junkman,” performed in the Silver Maple Ballroom in support of Focus the Nation, sending a clear message of the steps he thinks UVM students should take to immediately combat global climate change. “Your generation is the only one I’ve seen that has the chance and the integrity to achieve this change…I hope your generation really does make the difference…” The Junkman used various recycled objects including a Beck’s mini keg, a conch shell, half of a skateboard, a curtain rod, hubcaps and a tide container to drum out beats for almost two hours. Knaack states he has been playing on recycled instruments for about 15 years. Before this he had trained as a percussionist for orchestral music. He has appeared with Phish, Late Night with Conan O’Brian and jammed out on the Vans Warped Tour. On Friday a policy workshop was held again in the Silver Maple Ballroom addressing what was being done on the local, state, federal and international levels towards global climate change. State Representative Rachel Weston was there along with Stephanie Clark, Phil Fiermont, Gary Fiomanhoft and SGA president Kesha Ram. Clark stated the city of Burlington has been working hard with its legacy project, building a vision of Burlington for the year 2030. She also mentioned Burlington’s recent campaign against car idling in efforts to reduce gas emissions. Weston serves on the Natural Resource and Energy Committee and states that “Vermont has always been an environmental leader…” She says that by 2012, two of the contracts for Vermont’s energy suppliers, Yankee Nuclear Facility and Hydro-Québec, will begin to expire. Weston says this leaves Vermonters with both two challenges and two opportunities for the future.According to Weston, Vermont is relatively electric energy efficient. Forty percent of emissions come from heating and the other forty percent come from transportation, an issue they are currently trying to address.Senator Bernie Sanders couldn’t make an appearance, but his representative Phil Fiermont said a few words before the senator’s telecast played. Fiermont said “young people and students have played such a critical role…” in raising awareness of global climate change.Gary Fiomanhoft compared international progress to the United States. He stated that since 1990 Europe has reduced emissions by 2 percent while the US has increased theirs by 16 pecent. Lastly, the Senator had prepared a telecast in which he elaborated on the importance of young people getting involved in grassroots organizations.The peak event of the week occurred Friday, February 1 in the Atrium of the Davis Center. The Speak Out was an opportunity for Representative Rachel Weston, Dr. Stephanie Kaza, Kesha Ram, and two organizers of the event, Valerie Esposito and Samir Doshi all to say a few words on the week’s events and the issue at hand. Keith Brunner, one of the students who spoke during the open mic, traveled with a group of students from UVM to the Power Shift conference in Washington, D.C. Over 5,000 students attended and advocated towards a sustainable future. Brunner mentioned that he is going to be working with the new Office of Sustainability to provide alternative toilet paper. Currently UVM uses paper provided by Kimberly-Clark, a company that clear cuts land. By finding a sustainability alternative, Brunner hopes that UVM will be sending a better message to the community.For more information visit www.focusthenation.org or www.uvm.edu/climatechange.