focus_the_nation_poster.png By Shermakaye Bass

Some of America’s most progressive and ambitious movements have incubated on college campuses: Civil rights, anti-war, anti-Apartheid, nuclear disarmament, to name a few. And now, global climate change.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a professor, Eban Goodstein of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, conceived “Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America,” a national teach-in and series of public forums (both actual and virtual) set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1. With hundreds of campuses around the country participating, organizers say the event next week could turn out to be the biggest teach-in ever in U.S. history.

Complementing the public forums is “Choose Your Focus,” a virtual policy discussion and vote, that began on Martin Luther King Day and continues through Feb. 12 on the organization’s website.

Though it’s a dizzingly comprehensive endeavor, Focus The Nation essentially targets educators and students (and through them, policy makers and politicians), hoping to engage potential young leaders in the green movement in an unprecedented way, says key Focus coordinator Alex Tinker.

Participants say the time is right for a massive, simultaneous gathering of wits to address the future’s most confounding issue. They want to find solutions to what many think has been a green reticence among the American mainstream. And, where else to hold the conversation than within the country’s most hallowed halls?

“The best time to engage people in something like this is during their college years,” says Vanessa Schweizer of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “They’re already thinking about big ideas and their future, and how they can make a positive impact in their lives. … So to do this sort of event on college campuses makes sense.”

Schweizer is a coordinator of Focus events at Carnegie Mellon, but she says several other universities in the Pittsburgh area will participate heavily, sponsoring their own Focus-related events, then pooling their resources for a final, joint public forum.