UVM works to Focus the Nation'

BURLINGTONIn events spanning nearly one week, the University of Vermont and 1,750 other institutions nationwide attempted to Focus the Nation on solutions to global climate change issues by sponsoring teach-ins, rallies, and opportunities to take action. The national Focus the Nation organization aims to inform people that there are real solutions to global warming and, as stated on their website, move America beyond fatalism to a determination to face up to this civilizational challenge, the challenge of our generation. To cultivate this determination, The University of Vermont Focus the Nation group organized 80 teach-ins in classrooms across many disciplines and over 30 events between Sunday, January 27 and Friday, February 1. I dont know why people arent taking to the streets over this issue, but thats the kind of action we need, said Valerie Esposito, a lead student organizer of UVM Focus the Nation Judy Bonds, a fiery and forceful mountain-top removal mining activist with Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia, gave the keynote address at the Billings Student Center on Thursday. In addition to her terrifying tale of life in a holler near West Virginias coal mines, where she must defend herself and her activities from the King Coal mafia with a shotgun, she also offered high-spirited advice to aspiring activists. The youth of this country must take a leadership role in this movement. You need to make environmentalism sexy and cool like we did with the anti-war movement in the 1960s, and protest, protest, protest. UVM President Dan Fogel gave a passionate introduction to Ms. Bonds speech, outlining the myriad ways that UVM has taken a leadership role in the environmental movement on college campuses, and how UVM is planning to continue this role into the future. Through the creation of the Presidential Commission on Sustainability, the Climate Neutrality Working Group, the Office of Environmental Sustainability and the UVM Environmental Forum, President Fogel expressed his hope that the university could reach their goal of climate neutrality, a target which UVM signed up for through the Presidents Climate Commitment in the summer of 2007, as aggressively and rapidly as possible. During a Speak Out rally on Friday in the Davis Center, and at various other point throughout the week, UVM students and participants in Focus the Nation around the country were encouraged to take this moment of nationwide attention and turn it into meaningful action. Focus the Nation groups nationwide invited their local, state and federal political leaders and decision-makers to come to campus and participate in a non-partisan, round-table discussion of global warming solutions. Focus the Nation is further encouraging everyone to schedule a visit with their members of Congress for February 18Presidents Dayto discuss Choose Your Future solutions. Judy Bonds encouraged the audience at her lecture to call or write Representative Peter Welch to demand that he step up as co-sponsor of the Clean Water Protection Act and help stop mountaintop removal mining. It seems enough people were moved by her speech to spur this kind of action. Erin Farrell, a lead organizer of UVM Focus the Nation said that if the coal companies did not have such significant and corrupt influence in the West Virginia Supreme Court and with all of the states politicians, the actions of coal companies in West Virginia would be considered terrorism.

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