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Earth Day Convo Plants Seeds of Change

With Earth day on April 22, the convocation on April 17 was targeted at environmental issues. Bill McKibben spoke to the audience in Phelps-Stokes on “the search for a hopeful future.” McKibben is a Christian environmentalist who inspires people to heed the words of Gandhi, urging them “to live simply so others may simply live.”

McKibben talked with students after his convocation.

McKibben combined humor with facts and engaged the audience in his lecture about global warming. Beginning on a low note, he prefaced his talk by saying that he was going to bring a little “doom and gloom,” but that he would clear it up at the end with a solution. McKibben also commented that it was a pleasure for him to be in Berea, because he had heard of the Ecovillage and the college’s commitment to sustainability.

He posed several key questions to students, faculty, and staff in the audience, one of which asked “How can our species have grown enough to alter the rest of the planet?” His answer was that “Humans raised planet temperature by one degree.” While one degree does not seem to be a major, planet-altering statistic, according to McKibben it affects a multitude of environmental issues. It causes more evaporation, which in turn causes more drought and floods are more frequent in certain areas. In fact, according to McKibben, everything in the physical sense of the world seems to be "off kilter."

Some of the problems that McKibben addressed were eye-opening. Arctic ice has been melting more frequently for the last twenty years. In 2005, it had melted 25% since 1970. There are shortages of food all around the world due to floods and droughts. When there is a rise in temperature, there is also a rise in mosquitoes and now their travel patterns have elevated to villages in higher altitudes, causing an outbreak of malaria.

According to McKibben, some of the causes of these problems are right here at home. America has 4% of the world’s population, but it produces 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions. His goal for the convocation was for all those in attendance to remember one simple number: 350. McKibben stated that CO2 is like a person's cholesterol level, and when that level gets too high, health problems can occur. The worlds current CO2 levels are too high and now the planet is experiencing "health problems." McKibben urged the audience that it is absolutely vital to get the CO2 level back down to 350 parts per million because anything above this is dangerous.

To get this message out to the public, McKibben has formed the 350 campaign which has been engaging in demonstrations across the country. McKibben shared a slide show of people from all across the nation advertising the number 350. The photos ranged from people dressed up as polar bears taking a dip to people lined up to make the number 350.

McKibben implored all in attendance to get creative and start an on campus movement along with him for 350. For more information on McKibben or the 350 campaign, please check out the link below.

This convocation was co-sponsored with sustainability and environmental studies (SENS) and the ecological sustainability education (ESE) office.

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