Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Ben Dair ’11 will be giving the presentation on climate change originally developed by Al Gore and made famous in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, today at 4:30 in the LPAC cinema. The event is part of Swarthmore’s 2008 Earth Week. The presentation today will feature highlights from the original slide-show as well as new slides with updated science. Dair hopes that the event will start a conversation about sustainability both at Swarthmore and on a national level.
Dair has had practice haven given the presentation six times in high schools around his home state of Oregon. “The largest group I’ve ever presented to was our model United Nations conference” where there were over 2,000 people in the audience, Dair said.
The initiative was sponsored by The Climate Project, which is an organization founded after the release of Gore’s film. Their mission is to “spread global warming education as far as possible,” according to Dair. According to their website, they have 1,000 volunteers across the country presenting the slide show and recently trained volunteers in Australia and India.
Dair underwent an intensive application in order to be authorized to give the presentation. He was one of hundreds of people invited to fly to Nashville to be instructed in giving the presentation by Gore. “He hammared the slide-show into us,” said Dair. Gore taught volunteers both science and poise.
Dair’s slide presentation will also contain new slides not shown in the original version of Gore’s movie. The slides provide updated information, including “the latest information on the Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica,” as well as new information about the pace of climate change in general. “We have some very new and very startling evidence that climate change has progressed more quickly than we thought,” said Dair.
Although all volunteers were given uniform instructions about the presentation, presenters were “given the opportunity to edit to our preference, to the preference of the audience . . to design a presentation that would be most effective,” said Dair. Dair chose to provoke discussion about to mitigate climate change on a local and national level. In order to focus on areas of national policy, Dair has decided to include information from the Presidential Climate Change Action Plan put together by David Orr, Gore, and others.
Dair chose to focus discussion on national policy because the most common reaction to his presentation is, “what now?” When asked what Swatties can do now Dair said, “Begin by going home and begin small lifestyle changes. What we need most is a cultural shift in the awareness of the issue. As far as doing something that will have an impact we need to go for the national political level. Congress has to step up and pass stricter legislation, but we as Americans have to demand it first. I think there’s a misconception about what’s going on in Congress now, especially the rate they’re going; it’s not fast enough. Americans seem to think that the current administration is doing something with the 2007 energy bill that includes the [new] CAFE [fuel economy] standards.”
Unfortunately, Dair believes that the new fuel standards will not do enough and are being phased in too slowly. “We need a sense of ownership, that Americans are owners and invested with as enese of responsibility . . . to demand change” Dair continued.
The presentation is specifically designed to be a conversation starter about these political and scientific issues at Swarthmore. “I’d like to to be a conversation [at Swarthmore]. The original slides are now more than 2 years out of date, and I know that. . . I don’t expect this to be a lecture, I don’t expect to teach anyone. I want this to be an opportunity to come together and start a dialog,” he said.