By John Harley

Think UC Santa Cruz is the only school that cares about solutions to global warming?

Texas A&M and Western Wyoming Community College beg to differ.

In fact, over 1,700 other schools across all 50 states came together Jan. 31 to participate in a nationwide climate solutions forum, with schools from Harvard University to the University of Puerto Rico submitting ideas to cool the jets of global warming.

The national teach-in was organized by Focus the Nation, a multifaceted climate solution project working to synchronize the efforts of the thousands who participated last Thursday. Their main goal was to brainstorm global warming solutions, calling on the power of the masses to find local solutions to global climate change.

“We are a very large nation, but it’s obvious that the youth are ready,” said Garret Reiss Brennan, director of media and public relations for Focus the Nation. “More than 50 members of Congress are ready, hundreds of state leaders are ready. Now we need the youth to keep converting their education into action.”

Now that the teach-ins are over, Focus the Nation hopes to continue this collaborative effort by encouraging people to vote online for the most practical of the proposed solutions for climate change. It has started a venture, Project Slingshot, which encourages people to submit their ideas for focusing the nation on climate change. The project calls people to apply in one of three categories: outdoor fanatics, artists and innovators. One winner from each category receiving a $10,000 grant to help “slingshot their ideas into reality.”

Many of the environmental issues raised by the Focus the Nation teach-in were also given voice at UCSC’s own Earth Summit last week. Since its inaugural event in 2002, the Campus Earth Summit has become an annual gathering of students, faculty, and community members. Throughout the course of the Earth Summit, participants hammered out a “greenprint” for a sustainable campus, dividing into a wealth of workshops and discussion groups before reconvening to share their ideas.

Jeff McClenahan, a UCSC student and one of the event’s coordinators, was quick to point out that while the event was not directly associated with Focus the Nation, the national teach-in proved useful to the goals of the Earth Summit.

“It’s cool that we can coincide it so we can really hone in on the issues,” McClenahan said. “I think we had a lot of productive ideas.”

The event saw representation from local and national sustainability-inspired groups, including the Sierra Institute, UC Santa Cruz Dining and Guayakí Yerba Mate. Jumping the eco-friendly gun, Guyaki has already taken strides in the race for environmental sustainability, preserving six square feet of rainforest for every bottle of Yerba Mate it sells.

“We’re essentially trying to raise the bar for other companies,” said Guayaki spokesperson Matthew Sluder.

One of the discussion groups at the Earth Summit, the World Café, created notes that will be made into a blueprint for sustainability on UCSC’s campus. Many similar actions took place in other schools across the nation, according to Focus the Nation.

This is a step in the right direction, Brennan said, but the group’s efforts are far from over.

“We are currently working on planning Focus the Nation 2 for early next February,” Brennan said, “when the new president will be in office.”