Mar 192012
 
Authors: Kate Simmons

In 2007, John Calderazzo and his wife Sue Campbell, both English professors at CSU, founded Changing Climates, a program dedicated to spreading awareness about climate change.

“It’s a loose network of people who sometimes know and work with each other and sometimes don’t, who come at the issue from quite a number of different disciplinary and personal perspectives, but who share a concern,” Campbell said.

And with CSU being home to the largest graduate atmospheric department in the country, Campbell said there is great interest and focus around the issue of climate change.

“Lots of people at CSU have been actively working on parts of the puzzle for a long time,” she said. “(And) we were able to offer them a space to share some of their experience and knowledge and a way to get to know each other.”

Campbell and Calderazzo said they started Changing Climates after their concern about the issue grew so much it could no longer be ignored.

When the program began, Calderazzo said he went to different colleges on the CSU campus to determine who was already working on climate issues and if there would be any interest in a program that could connect them.

“I think there was this feeling that faculty wanted to speak to larger audiences, but they wanted to do it in a way where they could also learn more,” Calderazzo said.

“Members of university communities are pretty much, by definition, interested in learning, in sharing learning and in advancing knowledge,” Campbell added. “To a large extent, all we did was identify a space that crossed disciplinary and college boundaries for doing these things.”

According to Calderazzo, the interdisciplinary aspect of the program contributes to its success.

All faculty, regardless of their field, can be a part of Changing Climates, and each of their individual interpretations help other faculty and students expand their own perspectives.

“We realized right away that our own contributions to understanding and dealing with climate change would be limited by our expertise,” Campbell explained. “We’re not engineers or climate scientists or policy analysts or ecologists; we’re readers and writers and teachers who think a lot about how ideas and emotions get expressed and communicated — in my case, especially ideas and emotions about our human relationships with the natural world.”

Because of their passion around the issue and their dedication to help make an impact, Campbell and Calderazzo said they were able to find their own way to contribute to the cause.

“Because we’re not specialists in anything like climate science, it’s easy for us to see where the topic gets really confusing for other non-specialists,” Campbell said. “(And) so we realized we could help specialists of various kinds translate their knowledge into easier-to-understand language for the rest of us.”

According to Calderazzo, he took his interest one step further by adding climate-related teaching into the curriculum of his English classes.

He pointed out that literature has been affected by climate for generations, adding that Mary Shelley’s classic novel “Frankenstein” was written during a time period affected by a low ice age. It was so cold that Shelly and her friends decided to sit inside and have a ghost writing competition, Calderazzo said.

“There is a strong environmental component to the writing of that book,” he added.

Changing Climates brings lecturers versed in environmental conditions to CSU in order to make additional information about the issue available. Using this information, they have created a website, which is accessible at http://changingclimates.colostate.edu.

“Nearly everything (on the website) is written for non-specialist readers, but the information is high quality, and it’s easy to find further sources there for deeper reading,” Calderazzo said.

The next Changing Climates event will be held on April 13 and will feature Dr. Riley E. Dunlap, a professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University.

“I feel that one of the things we can offer in Changing Climates is fast and ready information on who on the CSU campus — and even nationally — who might be available to help people understand the climate issue,” Calderazzo said.

Collegian writer Kate Simmons can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Want to get involved and learn more about climate change?
The next Changing Climates event will be held on April 13 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in Clark A-103, where Dr. Riley E. Dunlap, a professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University, is set to address climate change denial.

For more information on the organization, visit its official website at http://changingclimates.colostate.edu.

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