Dear Santa Monica College Community,
Public intellectual Bill McKibben recently published the much discussed essay “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” in Rolling Stone Magazine. The sense of urgency inspired by his article has prompted our open letter to the College community. McKibben challenges colleges to become part of the solution. We hope you will find his challenge as compelling as we do.
In 2008, we at Santa Monica College committed ourselves to the intellectual and political work of Global Citizenship. In doing so, we recognized the global interdependence that holds both promise and peril for the future of the global community. Today, we believe nothing speaks to this vision more than the impending threat of Climate Change. McKibben accounts for this problem in clear, mathematical terms. He reminds us that the global community has already agreed, with the 2009 “Copenhagen Accord,” that to continue to prosper on earth we must hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Farenheit). To hold this line, we must release no more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the current rate of growth in carbon emissions, we will pass the 565-gigaton threshold in just 16 years. Now, consider that existing fossil fuel reserves contain 2,795 gigatons of potential carbon emissions. We must take this math seriously in the interests of our families, our children, our communities, our economies, our investments, and our survival. Our self-interests and our common interests are inextricably tied to understanding and acting upon this math. Global citizens who do the math will quickly recognize that the future well-being of the global community depends upon a dramatic reduction in our consumption of fossil fuels.
As global citizens, we have committed ourselves to combining our learning and teaching with a dedication to foster a livable, sustainable world. This commitment is evidenced by Dr. Tsang’s 2007 signing and SMC’s participating in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. This signing committed us to the goal of climate neutrality. We have begun the work, but attaining the goal will take all the grit we can muster. To motivate action, McKibben reminds us that institutions of higher learning played a key role in the global effort to end apartheid in South Africa. We can now take up the challenge of climate change and play an equally key role in ending our destructive dependence on fossil fuels.
We ask each of you, every member of this College community, to commit publicly to change your life in some way that will noticeably reduce your and your family’s dependence upon fossil fuel. The well-being of your family, your community, and the global community can motivate you to pledging to reduce your carbon footprint but producing that reduction will require grit. The truth of grit is that the things most worth achieving are often those things most difficult to achieve.
We can think of no better way to support our new GRIT initiative (Growth, Resilience, Integrity, Tenacity) and evidence our global citizenship than by using our understanding of a basic math problem to make a personally meaningful commitment to living differently. Determine for yourself what you have grit enough to pledge. Refer to this webpage on the College’s Sustainability website to help you consider carbon-reduction options: http://www.smc.edu/climatepledge. Start making a difference today! Share your pledge with Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Eric Oifer ([email protected]). He will add your name and pledge to those who have made the pledge at the action plan webpage. Also, consider reflecting on your efforts and experiences at the end of the academic year in an essay and submit it in the Environmental Affairs Committee’s essay contest (details forthcoming).
Let’s make this communal effort to carry on SMC’s commitment to global citizenship and sustainability by making a pledge to be part of the solution.
Eric Oifer, Amber Katherine, Genevieve Bertone, Dana Morgan, William Selby, David Phillips, Janet Harclerode, Pete Morris, Garen Baghdasarian, Alex Schwartz, Alex Tower, Christine Schultz, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Brenda Benson, Deyna Hearn, Carolyn Baugh, Lisa Lewis Burns, Parker Jean, Guido Davis Del Piccolo