The Climate Calling Conference launched on Wednesday with a Dean’s Lecture featuring botanist and environmentalist Peter Raven. The three-day conference, which aims to educate students about climate change and encourage them to take action on the issue, also includes the screening of the film “Years of Living Dangerously” on Thursday and an interdisciplinary symposium showcasing student projects to be held on Friday.
The conference was organized by John Peterson (Assistant Professor of English,) Stephen Davis (Distinguished Profesor of Biology,) Christopher Doran (Associate Professor of Religion), Craig Detweiler (Professor of Communication) and Michael Zakian (Adjunct Professor of Art History), who also worked the issue of climate change into their courses to yield student projects and discussion. The curriculum ranges across several disciplines, including English, natural science, religion, communication and the arts. The Green Team, a student club focused on sustainability, was also involved in planning and bolstering student involvement.
Green Team executive board member and junior Avery Davis, is participating in the student presentation on the conference’s final day as part of his Christianity and Sustainability class taught by Doran.
“It’s really just getting Pepperdine students’ perspective, giving them some education and kind of getting a holistic view of what climate change is, why it’s happening and then also what we can do about it,” he said.
Raven’s talk on Wednesday spotlighted current environmental issues, encompassing everything from population growth, excess consumption of goods, poverty, extinction and rising sea levels. According to Raven, the world is currently using 156 percent of all biocapacity, or the capacity of an area to create a sustainable supply of resources.
“We would need another half of a planet Earth right now to support us all sustainably,” he said.
Raven said that the best things people can do to combat these issues are limiting and eventually reversing global warming, developing alternative energy sources and new technologies, focusing on social justice and empowering people everywhere, and working toward population stability. Above all, he encouraged the promotion of learning and understanding the issues.
“Learning about the environment is essential to our future because it doesn’t stay static,” he said, ending his talk with words from Mahatma Gandhi: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
The screening of “Years of Living Dangerously” will be held Thursday in Elkins Theater at 6 p.m. Peterson said the film is a “natural fit” for Pepperdine and the current conversation, as it “takes an explicit interest in the conversation between Christianity and climate change.”
The symposium of student work will be held at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum and the Juarez Courtyard at 2 p.m. and will feature the collaborative work of approximately 85 to 90 students from each of the courses involved, including Avery Davis, who chose to focus on the environmental impact of concession stands at sports games. Others in his class examined travelling sports teams and the waste generated by sports teams (such as ankle tape). Peterson’s English class investigated the impact of climate change on the Inuit people of Shishmaref, Alaska. The symposium will also include student projects comparing 19th century artists’ moral responses regarding the Industrial Revolution to artists in the Weisman museum with a similar stance, according to Zakian.
Planning for the conference began in the summer of 2014 after Nick and Angelina Bright decided to fund a student response-centered event concerning climate change, according to Peterson. The group of five faculty members organized a Club Convocation for the classes involved to encourage open, interdisciplinary discussion as a buildup to the conference, which continues the education and conversation to the entirety of Seaver college.
Once the funding for the conference was available, the components came together in a way that Stephen Davis describes as “serendipitous.” Peter Raven’s talk, which was decided on nearly three years ago, happened to coincide with the Environmental Impact exhibit that is in the Frederick, Weisman Museum, providing a prime opportunity for the group to “put it together with a focus,” according to Stephen Davis.
“It’s part of serendipity,” he said. “But if it’s a real issue, and it’s current, we’re already going to have things in place.”
Aside from educating students about climate change, the conference is also meant to encourage students to take action. Part of that goal is being manifested in an art installation coordinated by the Green Team.
Green team president and junior Vivian Kim, said that the installation is an interactive piece that will consist of student handprints as signatures for a pledge.
“We’re … putting together a collective art installment … that’s going to be a pledge, saying that student will be pledging to take action on this, recognizing that it’s damaging to our environment,” she said. The installment will be available for students to pledge in Mullin Town Square throughout the conference.
Peterson said he hopes to make the discussion of climate change and environmental impact an annual event, but noted that the method of conversation is flexible and may not result in another conference, per se.
“The fact is that this is a Pepperdine-focused event … Perhaps there could be something that could involve other universities in the coming years,” he said. “We’re going to build upon this event and think about ways we can continue the conversation surrounding climate change and sustainability in general.”
Stephen Davis said this year’s conference signifies a step in the right direction in acknowledgment of and response to climate change.
“What I like about this experiment, the first of its type, is that it’s built around an infrastructure that’s already in place, a curriculum is in place, but it brings people together uniquely with a focus, and it is really focused on students,” Davis said. “This whole issue, it’s really the next generation that’s going to be left with it … and so it’s very appropriate for an academic institution to address issues like this that are so important to the students.”
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