When global warming is discussed, doom and gloom predictions about rising sea levels, crop failures and natural disasters tend to arise.
But rather than harp on the negatives, Naomi Klein struck a hopeful tone in an address to 800-plus students and faculty gathered at the John L. Tishman Auditorium Thursday.
“I’m not here to scare you,” Klein, who visited the university for the launch of her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, said.
Zeroing in on the solutions to one of humanity’s most pressing problems, the author said she was “Convinced climate change represents a historic opportunity … on the scale of the New Deal, but far more transformative, and just.”
“We … have the chance,” she continued, “to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up.”
Klein’s remarks served as a rallying cry for Climate Action Week, a series of events on climate change co-sponsored by The New School, as well as the People’s Climate March, a massive, history-making demonstration of which the university was an official leader and endorser.
Klein, who blamed the neoliberal economic system for many of the causes of global warming, said that the march was a great opportunity for concerned citizens, especially young people, to make their voices heard on the issue.
“Here’s a historic opportunity, when all of the world is converging on New York City around climate change, to take the lead on an issue our school cares about deeply,” says Ana Baptista, assistant professor of professional practice in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management and co-organizer of Climate Action Week.
“In recent years, we’ve really seen young people taking a very strong leadership role on climate change,” she said in a pre-event interview. “Young people have always been at the forefront of this movement.”
The New School made its presence felt at the People’s Climate March with hundreds of students and faculty members led by New School for Public Engagement Executive Dean Mary Watson and Michelle J. DePass, dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at the New School for Public Engagement, joining tens of thousands of activists on the streets of New York City in a call to climate action.The march—one of the biggest of its kind in history—was timed to draw the attention of world leaders gathering for the emergency United Nations Climate Summit on September 23.
When they weren’t pounding the pavement, members of the New School community were participating in Climate Action Week, a series of events building up to the march. Co-sponsored by the university and the environmental news magazine Grist, the week’s events—pop-up workshops, panel discussions, volunteer projects, and film screenings—were designed to encourage innovative thinking about global warming and to promote The New School’s values around climate action and justice. Student designers, journalists, sociologists and environmentalists from all of The New School’s divisions took part in the events.
“Here’s a historic opportunity, when all of the world is converging on New York City around climate change, to take the lead on an issue our school cares about deeply,” says Ana Baptista, assistant professor of professional practice in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management and co-organizer of Climate Action Week.“It’s a chance to seize the moment, to dig deeper into the issues surrounding climate change and show our support on this pressing global problem.”
The People’s Climate March and Climate Action Week were bolstered by a massive jolt of student energy. When she heard about the events, Molly Johnson, who studies environmental policy and sustainability management at Milano, “jumped at the chance to get involved.”
“The week is important to me personally because climate change is the issue of our era. It’s not just an environmental issue; it’s an issue of justice, health, equity, business, politics and humanity,” she says. “When politicians today say that we have to address the issue of climate change for the sake of our grandchildren, I think, ‘You’re wrong; I’m the grandchild this should have been solved to protect.’”
The New School’s sustainability efforts extend to every corner of its Greenwich Village campus. Look no further than the university’s new 375,000-square-foot University Center, a LEED Gold–rated facility that boasts industry-leading solutions to curbing energy use. Around the block is the Parsons Green Supply Center, a place where students and faculty can find recycled materials collected from the school and repurpose them for other projects—a means of keeping garbage out of landfills and reducing The New School’s carbon footprint.
A greener future is sprouting from The New School’s classrooms as well. The university offers close to 100 courses dealing with sustainability, as well as specialized degrees in environmental policy and sustainability management and in environmental studies. The New School’s sustainability efforts are bolstered by C6, a collaboration between faculty and students to initiate and promote university activities that support urban resilience in response to the effects of climate change.
But The New School’s sustainability efforts are hardly confined to its campus.
“When the People’s Climate March stomped through New York City demanding action on climate change,” Baptista said, “the university community was with them every step of the way.”