“We are playing Russian roulette with your future,” said Dr. John Sterman.
Sterman, a Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was one of three guest speakers at UMass Lowell’s fifth annual Climate Change Teach-In. Sterman used the analogy to explain how serious climate change is and said his job is to show people the science about what will happen if they do not change their behavior.
“Why are you getting an education if not to build a better life for yourself?” said Sterman.
Dr. Bruce Anderson, a professor in the department of Earth and Environment at Boston University and another speaker at the event, also said that “the global warming gamble” needs to stop.
“We’re continuing to roll the dice with our future even when we know the odds are stacked against us,” he said. “It’s not time to get up and walk away – it’s time to get up and run.”
More than 500 people from across the university registered for the event, according to Dean of Student Affairs and Enrichment James Kohl, and the speakers focused their messages on students and how they can join the climate change movement.
Students say they are already interested.
“I know the basics of what’s going on with climate change,” said sophomore Jonathan Adams. “I think it’s a pressing issue so it’s a good thing we’re having [the teach-in].”
Students also say the issue is relevant to their areas of study.
“Climate change literally affects everything,” says Kristyne Gambino, a senior biology major and also a Resident Advisor. She says that professors like Dr. Juliette Rooney-Varga, director of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative (CCI) and an associate professor of environmental biology, are trying to get Residence Life students involved in the climate change initiative.
Rooney-Varga opened the teach-in and said she hoped people could find connections to their own lives regardless of major or interest level.
“I think that you’ll find something here that’s relative to you,” she said.
Rooney-Varga also said that the university has added two new minors, Environment and Society and Climate Change and Sustainability, to the curriculum.
Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney said that 70 percent of students say that one of the top four reasons for choosing UMass Lowell is because of the university’s commitment to becoming a green campus and it’s interest in sustainability and climate change.
“We believe we have an ethical obligation to you and future generations,” said Moloney. “We are a laboratory for finding solutions to climate change.”
After the talk, Anderson said that all students can help find solutions to the climate change problem.
“It has to be viewed as this generation’s grand challenge,” he said. “It’s up to this generation as a collective group globally to change it.”
Anderson said that the engineers, poets, novelists, reporters, artists, politicians and economists of the world can contribute to positive change.
“You don’t need to be a scientist to make a difference,” he said.
Anderson also said that simple changes, such as the types of light bulbs we use, efficient use of refrigerators and the cars people drive, can make a huge difference and that a single person can reduce three percent of their carbon emission every year just by being conscious of their actions.
Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville also spoke on behalf of climate change.
“I’m really just a kid from Somerville trying to make my city better,” he said.
Curtatone said that he has worked to help Somerville invest millions of dollars into green energy projects and says that metropolitan areas should be leaders in this movement.
All three speakers said that those who oppose climate change solutions should look to the science of the issue for the answers.
“I don’t think the debate between pessimism and optimism is particularly fruitful,” said Sterman. “We have done harder things before.”
Sterman said that the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the achievement of democracy in South Africa were once thought to be impossible tasks.
“We can learn how to have hot showers and cold beer without ruining our future,” he said. “We can do it, we will do it, because we must do it.”