University of Idaho Sustainability Center Stirs Up Campus for Climate Change

Tuesday, October 20 2009

Written by Alecia Hoene

MOSCOW, Idaho – Last winter, the University of Idaho Environmental Science Program spearheaded a campus dialogue about the global climate crisis when it hosted a “Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions.” To continue that dialogue, the university's Sustainability Center will host a full-day Fall Teach-In on Wednesday, Nov. 4

The event will be held in conjunction with the 350 Group’s nationwide “Day of Climate Action,” and will take place from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the Commons Clearwater and Whitewater rooms, 875 S. Line St. in Moscow.

The 350 Group is a broad coalition of notable individuals like author Bill McKibben, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, environmental advocate Van Jones and NASA climate expert James Hansen. 350 represents the safe level, in parts per million, of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The earth’s atmosphere currently has approximately 390 ppm, much above the historical level of 275 ppm – the level where the atmosphere hovered until about 200 years ago.

The Fall Teach-In will bring together many of the university’s accomplished researchers and faculty from various disciplines. The Teach-In will engage students to personally take on issues presented, a difficult challenge with a large and all consuming issue like climate change.

The UISC seeks to present climate change and its attendant issues in an alternate manner – with optimism and good humor. Climate change dialogue generally is bleak and often charged with negative emotion. Apart from an energetic and participation-oriented speaker lineup, the event will include more up-tempo elements, such as dance numbers and a Residence Halls bake-off. The baked goods produced will be given away to visitors at the entrance.

“The UISC is about optimism,” said Darin Saul, director of the UISC. “Of course these problems are real and serious. But if anything will solve them it will be creativity and optimism. Obsessing about a problem per se never solved anything. We need to focus energy into creative and proactive responses to the problems.”

It is this optimism that the UISC hopes to infuse into campus culture through events like the Fall Teach-In.

“We understand that our generation is increasingly responsible for the damage done to the world, to our own future prospects," said Andy Carman, UISC student programs coordinator. "And we will be increasingly responsible for pulling ourselves out of this crisis.”

And, while the UISC believes in focusing personal responsibility, it seeks to do so in so far as it is productive. “No one responds well to blame or guilt," Carman said. "That’s because they are red herrings on the trail to achieving positive results. There is an immense wellspring of hope and compassion in my generation. At UISC, we believe that’s exactly the right attitude to take to such serious issues.”

For more information or to get involved, contact Carman at or (208) 885-0125.

As increasing environmental awareness drives interest in sustainable practices, the University of Idaho continues to seek carbon reduction initiatives to meet the current and future needs of society and to contribute to the quality of life and the natural resources in Idaho, the nation and the world. The University of Idaho emitted some 38,981 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2007, which is equal to 3.59 tons per student. The university has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and has begun the work to reduce carbon emissions across operations. For more information about the university’s sustainability efforts, contact the University of Idaho Sustainability Center at or visit  
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit