Forum on Environment and Social Justice Thursday

February 17, 2009

For the second consecutive year, the main campus community is participating in Focus the Nation, an alternative teaching program launched nationally in 2008 to help educate the public to the dangers of global warming and related environmental hazards.

“We want you to learn about some of these major events,' said campus organizer Chris Miller, associate professor of biology and environmental science. “We’re changing the planet. The environment affects us and we affect it.'

The local teach-in will take place between 1 and 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19, on the main campus, using classrooms in Crawford and Lewis halls. The normal class schedule has been shortened for the day to allow all students and faculty to attend, listen to planned presentations, ask questions and participate in discussions.

As in 2008, students will be presenting most of the planned forums. Some of the topics planned include: the effect of climate change on infectious diseases, the new practice of “greenwashing' adopted by companies to enhance their image to the public, and the links between oil and global politics.

Some presenters are also expanding the curriculum to include social justice topics, some of which are directly linked to environmental concerns. “Many argue that there is a strong link between environmental change and quality of life for marginalized societies, the poor and indigenous populations of the world,' explained Rachel Longstaff, another organizer of the event, and a Saint Leo assistant professor and catalog librarian. One forum, for instance, will discuss the benefits of biodiversity to community well-being.

Some other presentations address specific human rights issues or social problems in depth.

Another aspect of the program is different from last year, Miller noted. In 2008, Saint Leo held its teach-in on Jan. 30, as did most of the other universities participating across the country. This year, some colleges and universities have already held programs with speakers. But Miller informed the national organizers that Saint Leo prefers a later date in its semester to give faculty and staff more time to prepare.

Posters with the titles of presentations and their room numbers will be posted in Crawford and Lewis halls the day of the event.

For more information, contact Chris Miller at or visit the Web site for the national alliance at

Final Focus the Nation Program