Focus the Nation, a national movement based on spreading knowledge about global warming and related environmental concerns, came to UC Irvine with a series of events on Jan. 30 and 31. The effort was organized by the Focus the Nation steering committee, Students for Sustainability and the Orange County chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology.
The festivities kicked off Wednesday night in the Lucille Kuehn Auditorium with “The 2 percent solution” webcast. The presentation featured panelists Steve Schneider, a climate scientist from Stanford University, CEO of the Natural Capitalism organization Hunter Lovins, and Val Jones, the executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The event focused on reducing the amount of carbon emitted annually by two percent until the year 2050, which will reduce carbon emission by more than 80 percent by that year.
On Thursday, Focus the Nation 2008 continued with more than a dozen events held at the UCI Student Center. The highlight of these events was a discussion between Irvine mayor Beth Krom, Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook and Santa Ana mayor Miguel Puldio. Aside from the larger topic of global warming, the trio discussed more specifically how to handle this global issue at the local level through city government.
One of the reoccurring themes of the event was the effect that widespread petroleum consumption has on the environment.
According to the California Energy Commission, billons of dollars of petroleum are consumed each year in California at an increasing rate. In order to protect the environment from the environmental backlash of petroleum, various speakers at the event expressed that this was a trend that needs to stop.
Still, according to Shannon Busby, an Orange County resident, the difficulty of reducing a commodity that is currently depended on at a national level cannot be discounted as she learned from one panel she attended.
“The panel was really good. … I learned a lot about transportation and how important it is to understand the federal standpoint,” Busby said.
The final event of Focus the Nation at UCI was a screening of “Revolution Green: A True Story of Biodiesel in America.” The 2007 film was produced by Irvine resident Jessica Kelly and narrated by Woody Harrelson. Focusing on the production of biodiesel as a realistic alternative to gasoline, the documentary placed particular emphasis on Bob and Kelly King, a couple living on the Hawaiian island of Maui, who created the first successful biodiesel refinery in the United States.
Although neither Bob nor Kelly King could be present at the screening, the closeness of the environmental movement was shown through their son Aaron King, who was onhand to answer questions after the screening.
In response to one question asked about the extent of petroleum use in the United States, King emphasized how this is an issue all automobile owners can influence.
“We need to cut down on our oil use just entirely … 98 percent of the petroleum we use right now is on transportation,” King said.
According to King, one aspect of America’s dependence on petroleum is that much of the fuel use is unnecessary. For instance, many foods that could be grown domestically in one state are instead driven thousands of miles through the country in order to increase profits.
“We’re moving items halfway across the country just to save a few dollars and that kind of needs to stop,” King said.
Overall, Focus the Nation 2008 functioned as an educational effort to educate those about global warming and related environmental concerns. Michael Gonsior, a postdoctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, stressed that knowing about environmental issues is beneficial but that it is also important to continually seek out knowledge on such matters.
“[My interest is] people moving forward and the whole climate change. … I want to learn more about it so that’s why I’m here,” Gonsior said.