Global Issues

Gregory P. Foy, Presider 

The session started with a historical perspective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change presented by Keith Peterman (“UN provides a context for teaching global topics of climate change and sustainability”) that then led into a description of how this platform provides an excellent opportunity to teach undergraduates the significance of sustainability and other global environmental issues. Dr. Peterman’s main question posed to the audience was What is the role of higher ed in educating students, the public, and policy makers about issues related to climate change? In his presentation, “Sustainability, climate change, and the international year of chemistry (IYC-2011): A celebration or just the beginning!?” Gregory Foy provided a description of the ACS involvement in the process from the Sustainability Engagement Event in San Francisco to the proposal in Boston. The presentation then outlined the steps taken to involve students and professors in COP16 (the UNFCCC’s 16th Conference of Parties). This was followed by a description of a number of the outcomes and then a suggestion for the future. The next speaker was Anthony Tomaine, an undergraduate from York College of Pennsylvania. As one of two ACS representatives to COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, Anthony provided the perspective of an undergraduate ACS non-governmental official (NGO) through his talk titled “Climate change, sustainability, and COP16: An undergraduate tale”. This talk provided details of the engagement of students around the world through the C&EN Editors blog as well as a Facebook page and subsequent discussions after returning from the conference. Steven Tobin described the production of two York College Chemistry society videos in his talk titled “Sustainability and IYC-2011: A York College Chemistry Society production.” The first video shown focused on the COP16 engagement by Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block through a documentary. The second video was a short production that aimed at educating the audience about water usage and treatment. Leah Block was the last speaker in the York College group and described her experiences at COP16 “Reporting behind the scenes through the eyes of an undergraduate”. Leah gave a wonderful description of the process leading up to the conference, and then described the many interactions with NGOs, press, and several high ranking government officials. Her story describing her interaction with Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC was excellent. The final speaker in the panel was Alexander Greer from Brooklyn College, and his talk on “Encouraging undergraduate student involvement in defending the human rights of scientists” was a fantastic way to wrap up the session. He described the ways in which he is engaging students and others in these human rights issues and highlighted a number of organizations that are working on behalf of scientists around the world. He is extremely concerned that these issues are not getting the attention that they deserve and is promoting student involvement as a mechanism for promoting human rights issues. Alexander was quite complimentary towards the student speakers that had presented before him.