Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=100859
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 11:41:00 PM CST
Students, policy makers and climate experts all came together Wednesday at the University of Chicago to talk about climate change, and how students can work toward generating solutions. Roughly 40 students and guests filed into the hall prepared to be inspired.
This was the first stop on the Midwest leg of The Longest Summer Tour, trucking through college and university campuses throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota over a 10-day span.
“There is a movement going on, and it’s a galvanized voice for global warming,” said Will Steger, tour speaker and polar explorer. “We want to help facilitate that connection, get people moving on this issue. Getting them informed in what they should do. Getting them politically active on it, sort of on all fronts,” he said.
Steger said he wanted to focus on creating the tour for college students because, "It’s definitely going to affect your generation, so we want to help [your] generation organize themselves around this issue.”
Giving an eyewitness account of his own experiences in Antarctica and Greenland, Steger explained that, especially in the last 10-15 years, global warming has become a real and visible problem.
He showed pictures of him and his crew crossing Antarctica in one polar exploration, along the longest possible route, 3,700 miles, in 222 days.
The eastern part, contains almost 70 percent of the Earth’s fresh water and creates its own weather system, he said. Because of its size it hasn’t really changed, he said, “except on the fringes."
He then showed how West Antarctica has already begun to change, alarming scientists. Two ice shelves have disintegrated since he and his team crossed the area in 1989. The danger, he said, is that once the ice shelves break off, the glaciers begin to flow quickly and sea levels will rise. Pointing to one ice sheet, Steger said, “See these striations? That’s probably the first time in 12,000 years that this happened.”
“Every ice shelf that I’ve travelled on in the Arctic and in the Antarctic has collapsed. We lost two ice shelves just two months ago in the Arctic … a symptom of global warming.”
Spurring the audience to get involved, U of C student Zoe VanGelder said, “The good news is that there’s a lot left to do, and that’s also the bad news, unfortunately."
"It’s great to know that we have the support of our parents’ generation in helping us solve this problem that’s going to be the biggest issue of our generation,” she said. VanGelder, 21, is co-chair of the Student Sustainability Council at the university.
Guest speaker Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, 21, a senior environmental studies major at Macalester College in Minnesota, challenged the group: " I think we often ask the question, 'theoretically, what would we like to do as a society, what should our political leaders be leading us toward?' What if we were to ask that of ourselves?"
After the meeting, audience member Michael Carbone, 21, a student double-majoring in Asian studies and math said he liked the event and said of Heger, "He's an explorer and he's been there, and I'm interested in what he has to say."
Another student, Christina Melander, 21, a sociology major, also liked hearing Steger. "It was sort of an introduction to issues of global warming I think a lot of the audience was already informed about," she said. "But hearing the eyewitness account was interesting and added something to my knowledge that I didn't have beforehand."