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 Tuesday, February 23, 2010 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


“Useable Thoughts” a primer on climate change
by Allison Sylvest, University Communications

Michael Glantz has a passion for climate study, and a self-proclaimed short attention span. Put these together, and you get a book on climate that is succinct, understandable, and applicable in many ways. “Useable Thoughts: Climate, Water and Weather in the Twenty-First Century” functions as a contemplative discourse on climate change.

The cover image is planet Earth as a Rubik’s Cube – ever-changing, with shifts in position impacting the condition, perception and relevancy of neighboring continents and countries; and that in effect is how issues of climate change have developed. “Viewing the issue as beyond our reach, and blind faith in technology and engineering, isn’t functional,” said Glantz, director of the CU-Boulder INSTAAR Consortium for Capacity Building. “We are like sea ice – we can influence the atmosphere.”

The compact, concise book was created with co-author Qian Ye, a research scientist at the Consortium for Capacity Building, and is based on a large textbook by William Burroughs that Glantz helped put together. The textbook was thorough, but contained so much information that it was impossible to cover all of the material in class. “Useable Thoughts” takes the key pieces – perceptions and knowledge of climate, the effects of climate change and how technology interacts both positively and negatively, and the impacts of a varying climate on society, now and in the future – and highlights central points with words and images to create an understanding of the issue as a whole. “Life is complex,” said Glantz. “We must make decisions without perfect information in order to accomplish things.”

Or to put it in a global perspective, “The G-20 is seen as the global power,” he said. “We think that progress can’t be made without the cooperation of the most powerful players. But why wait for that to happen? Why not the C-10 – the Carbon 10? Changes can be made on a smaller scale that will have an impact.”

Glantz wants undergraduates to use the book as a catalyst for thought. “The current undergraduates were born in the 1990s. They are the ecogeneration – this topic has been acknowledged and discussed throughout their lifetimes,” he said. “They already have their own views on the issues. I want this book to raise discussion about those views.”

The format is so accessible that its use is not limited to the classroom. It can be thumbed through, opened to any page, and points are raised that create food for thought, much like a book of meditations. Everyone from faculty in all disciplines to individuals and families can approach the subject in ways that engage their own level of knowledge and application.

In fact, Glantz put this concept in action at a January book signing at the Starbucks on Pearl and 28th Streets – the site where he and Ye wrote the book. “We discussed climate change with the people who attended, or just happened to walk in,” he said. “It was a casual, social way to talk about important issues.”

And that is how knowledge is shared, and progress is made.

Published by the United Nations University Press, 2010. Glantz has many other publications, including a book in a similar format, “Heads Up! Early Warning Systems for Climate, Water, and Water-Related Hazards.”

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