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Students organize event to educate about climate change

Vancouver Island University students are passionate about educating others about climate change.

The students, all members of a nationally funded university public outreach initiative called Awareness of Climate Change through Education and Research (ACER), invite the public to the fourth annual climate change symposium at the Nanaimo campus Saturday (April 27).

The symposium called “Climate Change: Science, Politics and Society” is free and open to anyone who wants a greater understanding of emerging topics in climate change.

Expert presentations include a keynote address by Tom Pedersen, director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, on the linkage between climate policy and food production, and a presentation by Kerri Klein, from B.C. Healthy Communities, on negotiating social influences on climate action.

A series of engaging afternoon workshops range from computer visualizations of climate science to marine acidification and evidence-based decision-making.

ACER operates out of VIU under the direction of chemistry professor Erik Krogh and geography professor Jeff Lewis.

“ACER’s key objective is to promote a greater understanding of the science and social implications of climate change to students and the general public,” said Krogh. “This inter-disciplinary project is rooted in the belief that making informed decisions on the issue of climate change requires greater public engagement and a deeper understanding of this complex topic. Our goals are to improve scientific literacy, mobilize knowledge and promote social change.”

The symposium and workshops are designed for students of all ages as well as members of the general public. Participants will learn about the causes and implications of climate change, policy initiatives and sustainable solutions.

To date, ACER student volunteers have given interactive Science of Climate Change presentations to more than 10,000 high school students, teachers and members of the public throughout B.C. since the club was formed in 2008.

Andrew Mostad, 24, an ACER participant for the past two years, says one of the biggest rewards is passing knowledge to younger students.

“I love seeing the light bulb go on in all the kids,” he said. “I remember one (high school) presentation when I had my back to the audience. When I flipped to the next slide I heard this gasp. I knew then that those kids understood, in that moment, what we as a generation are facing.”

While the implications of climate change are serious, ACER’s presentation is not all doom and gloom. A key part of the presentation focuses on possible solutions. The original idea for ACER started on a chalkboard in the summer of 2008 when a small group of VIU science students and Krogh decided to undertake the task of educating the general public about climate change.

ACER currently offers more than half a dozen different presentations that expand on the original science of climate change discussion, as well as the annual spring symposium.

The work done by the ACER group to educate the public is a big step toward mitigating the effects of climate change, adds Lewis.

“The challenge isn’t that we need more science to know what to do. We have that. We want to initiate change, and to do that we have to communicate effectively.”

The symposium will be held in Arts and Science building 355. Please contact ACER@viu.ca for more information and to register. A full schedule is available at http://www.viu.ca/acer/.

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