Queathem talks Al Gore, travel and climate change

Professor Elizabeth Queathem, Biology, studies public perception and differences in opinion and approach towards climate change. On Friday, Oct. 2, at 4 p.m, she will give a public lecture in Noyce 1023 addressing her research over the past several months and discussing the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The S&B’s Staff Writer, Michael Cummings, sat down with her to talk about national and individual solutions for combatting climate change.

The S&B: What sort of research do you conduct that relates to climate change and environmental issues?

Queathem: Recently I’ve become interested in finding out why it is that even though everyone who studies climate change agrees that it’s happening so many people don’t believe that it’s true. So, I’m interested in surveying at all different levels of society to find out what people think about climate change. I’m hoping to give surveys here at Grinnell and at other institutions of higher education. I’ll be attending the AASHE Conference – that’s the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education – next month … I’m also making connections in Germany and Asia to see if we can survey at universities in those places, too. [My MAP students and I] went to Germany last spring to look at sustainability practices there. I also went on this faculty development trip to East Asia at the beginning of this summer, so this is an area that’s really burgeoning for me right now.

What will be the main focus of your talk on Friday?

Last spring I did the climate leadership training that Al Gore’s organization runs. Part of the talk will be about that training and will contain information that I received there. Part of the talk will be about the trip to Germany and part of the talk will be about what we learned when we went to East Asia.

What do you expect will be the outcome of [the UN] conference?

It’s very difficult to say, but I think that if you look at things that are happening around the world, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful, in part because things are becoming so bad in parts of the world that people are compelled to acknowledge what is happening … so we’re seeing action on the part of individual cities around the world … People are not waiting for things to happen at the level of an entire country, they’re taking matters into their own hands.

Do you think it’s possible for the countries of the world to work together to find a solution?

That’s a great question. I think that this problem is so big that paradoxically we can’t wait until it’s possible to address it as one world. We have to attack it at every conceivable level and on every front because that’s the only way that we can make enough progress …

What are some steps that we as individuals can take to help combat the effects of climate change?

Vote. Vote, and make your voice heard with every single candidate. There should be people asking questions about climate at every event where a candidate opens his mouth. That is the biggest thing that I think people could do right away.