America's Young Minds: A Neglected Renewable Resource
The Huffington Post published an Op-Ed by film producer and Institute Advisory Board member Lawrence Bender.
Seven years ago, I had the privilege of working with former Vice President Al Gore to produce the film An Inconvenient Truth. At the time, awareness of global climate change was growing, but urgency around solutions was lacking. The film helped create a moment where that all changed. It wasn't just the Oscar, Grammy and Nobel Prize honoring the film. It was about the millions of people who experienced it and made personal commitments to do their part for the planet.
I believed at the time that among those millions had to be policymakers who could not help but make a similarly sincere pledge to do their part to save civilization from calamity. I was wrong.
In the U.S. Congress, they continue to debate issues that scientists settled decades ago. In Copenhagen, the world's diplomats haggled and blustered while precious time slipped away.
To be sure, governments will remain critical to any comprehensive effort to save our planet. But waiting for governments is no longer an option. It is time for other institutions to step up. And one place that is happening is our universities, which can serve as powerful agents of change.
America has some of the top research institutions in the world. They understand the issue to its core - from climate change to biodiversity loss, to air, water and soil pollution. Increasingly, professors from different disciplines like law, policy and chemistry are working together on finding a more sustainable way of living without sacrificing quality of life. The green chemistry movement is a great example of that. This integrated, multi-disciplinary approach is where real, practical solutions can come from.
Over the last four years, I've been a member of the Board of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). I have been blown away by the breadth and depth of the research occurring at the university a mile from my home. Professors are doing incredible research on the impacts of climate change locally and in rainforests in Ecuador and Cameroon; studying how urban lifestyle can impact health outcomes; exploring cost effective ways to turn wastewater into safe drinking water.
And, of course, they are training the next generation of environmental leaders. The IoES created the Environmental Science major just five years ago and now there are nearly 300 majors on campus. Nearly all past graduates are at work in government agencies, consulting firms, corporations and environmental groups where they are helping drive reform.
To read the full blog post on the Huffington Post click here.
Published: Friday, March 16, 2012