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Answering the Call: Part One

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

Finally, the message about global warming has come into the mainstream! The world's preeminent scientists and scientific societies are in agreement -- global warming is happening, and we can no longer ignore the signs.

I first learned about global warming more than twenty-five years ago, when I was in college. The issue of human-induced global warming was of concern even back then -- although the public didn't pay much attention. The problem of global warming was difficult to comprehend, because its effects weren't in-your-face obvious.

However, the increasing signs of a warming planet were enough to push most of the world's governments into action by 1992, when the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was ratified. Still, most notably, the American and Australian governments did not sign "the convention," and went about business as usual.

Then, last year, the documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out. It became one of the most widely viewed and widely acclaimed documentaries ever made, and it brought the problem of global warming into the hearts and minds of Americans. My husband, a coworker, and I went to see the movie on the first weekend it came out. As the final credits rolled, I knew the tipping point had come. There would be a groundswell of interest and concern. Finally.

What I didn't expect was that global warming, and An Inconvenient Truth, would be the flash point for a heated argument between the husband of a good friend of mine and me. Again, science had become politicized in the minds of some people, in this case because the most recognizable voice shouting out about global warming and its effects is Al Gore. Because he is a former U.S. vice president, some people look at the issue as political, not scientific.

The argument with a friend still rattles me today, but I'm glad it happened, because it was a clear reminder that we all have a moral obligation to learn the facts and then speak from knowledge, not from ignorance, fear, or unanswerable beliefs.

As I went onto the Internet to find out the latest research on global warming, I came upon a call for help: Gore had set up a nonprofit organization, the Climate Project, to spread awareness and challenge citizens and governments to take action to combat global warming. The first step was to train 1,000 volunteers to present slide shows about An Inconvenient Truth across the country and do what the movie couldn't -- engage people in informed discussions to learn the truth and act on it. And so I volunteered, willing to pay my own way to Nashville, use my precious vacation time, and volunteer to give at least ten presentations in 2007.

On New Year's Day, I landed in Nashville and met 200 other volunteers from all across the nation and even from other countries -- teachers, bankers, doctors, homemakers, engineers, retirees, and even a fourteen-year-old high school student from Colorado. We spent two and a half days together learning the scientific facts about global warming from scientists and from Gore himself.

In my next post, I discuss the training and provide information and links to curricula resources.

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia
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