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Getting to Know: Dr. Eban Goodstein

Dr. Eban Goodstein, professor of economics at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., wants college students around the country to join the fight against global warming, and he’s focused on getting Hispanics and other minorities involved.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he’s the director of Focusthenation, a landmark organizing project that is coordinating teams of faculty and students at more than 1,000 educational institutions to engage in a collaborative discussion about solutions to global warming.

Focusthenation launched the Green World Project to educate Hispanic and Asian immigrants about how America’s consumer culture impacts global warming in their native countries. Other goals include connecting these communities to participating universities and teaching the principle of “one-person-one-vote.”

“It’s disproportionately vulnerable people in poor communities who are bearing the brunt of extreme weather events,” Goodstein says. Hurricane Katrina, he notes, highlighted the adverse impacts of global warming on people of color. “It brought the issue into everybody’s living room. It framed the issue in terms of social justice.”

Historically Black colleges such as Morehouse have organized focusthenation teams as well. Goodstein draws a parallel between the strategies of today’s environmental activists and those of civil rights activists 40 years ago.

“What we’re all experimenting with is the creation of a new social movement,” says Goodstein. “In 2100, the world could be 10.5 degrees hotter than it is now. It’s a post-peak oil, post-water shortage world, it’s tribalistic politics, and it’s not a place that we want for our children or grandchildren.”

A year-long enterprise, Focusthenation is funded by grants and corporate sponsors and culminates in a one-day symposium on Jan. 31, 2008.

At Lewis & Clark, the day’s events will include a lecture on green technologies, a reading of Genesis and a play about climate change. Roundtable discussions with legislators will emphasize the importance of policy change.

“We want to mobilize large numbers of people to put national legislation – a Climate Act – at the forefront of American politics,” Goodstein says.

But there’s a second world out there, he says. “It’s one where we rewire the planet with clean energy solutions and create millions of jobs and lay the foundation for a just and sustainable future.”

– By Linda Baker

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