Barton “Buzz” Thompson, Director of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University and a leading national authority on environmental and natural resources policy and law, spoke to the 120 Punahou juniors and seniors enrolled in the Advanced Placement Environmental Science course on Nov. 16, 2012.
In Honolulu to deliver the 2012 Distinguished Gifford Lecture at the University of Hawai‘i’s William S. Richardson School of Law, Thompson agreed to devote one of his three days on O‘ahu to Punahou. His two lectures to our students provided them with a vivid, if daunting, introduction to the complex climate challenges that confront the planet in the 21st century. Beginning with greenhouse gases and global warning, he addressed impending decreases in crop yields, threats to the fresh water supply, species extinction and increasing frequency of extreme weather.
Delving into the world’s options for coping strategies – mitigation (slowing the advance of negative impact on our planet) and adaptation (what we need to do to deal with the problem) – Thompson made the global more local by pointing out examples in Hawai‘i of erosion, species endangerment and coral reef destruction, and citing examples of smart steps that Hawai‘i is taking in water and energy adaptations. His message to the students was to see themselves as part of the answer. “You are the ones who will come up with some of the solutions we will need,” he said. “We need ideas, and we need you to think of them.”
Between morning and afternoon classes, Thompson was greeted by President Jim Scott ’70, members of the Sustainability Committee, and other interested faculty and staff over lunch in the Lily Pond Room. In a lively exchange about interdisciplinary problem-solving and innovative curriculum design, they compared notes on Punahou’s CapSEEDS course for seniors and Stanford’s First Nations Futures Program for emerging leaders in Hawai‘i, New Zealand and Alaska. Observing that “knowledge comes from taking things apart and wisdom from putting things together,” Scott thanked Thompson for sharing his time and expertise with Punahou.