So the talk went pretty well (I think); at least there weren't people rushing for the door, which was a relief. I received a couple of suggestions about how to improve it, one being to use more pictures, like the one below, which shows a research station called Swiss Camp
that I visited when I went back to Greenland, in 2004:
One of the things that was curious about the talk ? which was noted in the Q&A ? was the make-up of the audience. You'd think that if you were speaking on a college campus about a topic like global warming, you'd get a lot of students. Truly it is their future that's at stake. But in fact, the audience was made up mainly of faculty members and people from the community (many of them, admittedly, friends of mine). In general, I'm flummoxed by the politics of college campuses these days, to the extent that there are any. What do eighteen-year-olds care about? Before my talk, I led a seminar with a group of environmental studies students. (If you ever agree to speak at a college, beware: you will also be asked to conduct a seminar and speak to three or four classes, and have lunch with one group and dinner with another.) The students in the seminar seemed like really great kids ? thoughtful, concerned, and outgoing ? and after a while, we got to talking about a petition drive that some of them had led. The aim of the petition was to get the Williams College administration to come up with plan to reduce campus-wide emissions. The drive was quite successful ? something like a thousand students signed the petition in the course of a week ? and (to make a long story short) it seems as if the administration is going to come up a plan, if not necessarily an adequate one. But signing a petition and actually doing something are, as everyone knows, two entirely different things, and the students were very open about how tough it was going to be to convince kids to make even relatively modest changes in what, for lack of a better word, I'll call their lifestyle. It turns out that in addition to a stereo and an iPod and a hair dryer and a cell phone and a computer, just about every student now brings to college his or her own personal refrigerator. (Did you know this? I did not.) I suggested that the college simply disallow refrigerators, since they use so much energy. The suggestion was met with an awkward silence.