A group of professors and students have begun to plan a day-long, campus-wide teach-in that will examine the intersections of climate change and society this coming fall. 

The proposed event is intended to engage the entire College for the purposes of education and action. Organizers of the event also hope to offer a broad view of the complex causes and effects of climate change and propose viable options for action. 

“Our goal at this point is to have an event in the fall that is high profile and substantive, and addresses climate change and social justice, and involves the largest possible segment of the Bowdoin population,” said Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Mark Battle, one of the faculty members actively involved in the planning. 

“We will structure it in whatever way is required to meet those goals,” he added.

  While the group has received administrative support, specifically from President Mills, the proposed format of a day-long teach-in has yet to be approved. Typically, a teach in would involve the cancellation of all regularly scheduled classes on the day of the event.  

The scope and ambition of this event has little precedent at Bowdoin. The teach-in is a commonly used format, but Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Hadley Horch, who is also helping to plan the event, said that Bowdoin has not canceled classes for the entire school since an event following the Kent State shootings in 1970.

Horch explained that she would be willing to compromise about the format of the teach-in if certain changes needed to be made.

“A teach-in would be really symbolic and great and important, but I think there are ways of having these conversations on a Saturday or evenings,” she said. “I would love to see it be a teach-in, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.”

Battle also stressed that the group is still in the planning stages and the content and structure of the event could change drastically between now and the fall. 

In a campus-wide email sent on December 16, Battle initially indicated that the event would be held this spring.

Battle explained that following recent events in Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island, the scope of the event was expanded to cast a greater focus on the social impacts of climate change, causing the decision to delay until the fall. 

“My vision is to have a community wide discussion about how climate intersects with society,” said Horch. “That means we need to understand the science of climate change and we have to understand the implications for different societies. How is it affecting people in different locations? Of different classes? Of different races? Of different countries?

“One of the great tragedies and challenges of climate change is that it affects everyone and it affects the disadvantaged more,” Battle added. “The wealthier you are the more you can insulate yourself from the effects of climate change.” 

Sinead Lamel ’15, one of several students directly involved in the planning process and a member of the student group Radical Alternatives to Capitalism, explained how corporate control of resources is a significant factor in the climate issue and hopes for it to be addressed during the event. 

“Our club, Radical Alternatives to Capitalism, thinks that climate change is a result of irresponsible corporate control of resources,” she said.  “For example, deforestation happening all over the world and the burning of fossil fuels. We have the technology to not do that but there are certain corporations that are, for example, fighting wars for oil and pushing the car model.” 

Battle also explained how in addressing social aspects of the climate issue, he hopes to speak to a desire he sees in the student body for more intense discussion of important issues.

“One thing that has become very clear for me [is that there is] the desire for substantive, difficult conversations about issues people feel have gone unaddressed for a long time, and you can’t separate any of these tensions on campus,” he said.

While the organizing group has received input from students and many members of the faculty, it is actively seeking more students and faculty wishing to get involved in the planning process.

They also intend to write an open letter to the campus in the coming weeks announcing a more formal plan and soliciting further community involvement.