Monday, March 22, 2010, Dr. John P. Holdren (pictured left), Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for President Obama, delivered the ninth annual lecture at the University of Michigan named for sponsor Peter M. Wege. Dr. Holdren spoke to a full house of faculty, students, and guests in the University’s Rackham Auditorium.
Holdren’s topic was “Science and Technology Policy Priorities and Opportunities in the Obama Administration.” President Obama’s personal advisor on Science and Technology outlined the administration’s plans and projected budgets for elevating the role of science in the federal government. Bringing more scientists into the White House’s decision-making process was a key platform in Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.
With Earth Day approaching, University President Mary Sue Coleman reminded the audience that Michigan played a key role in the original 1970 Earth Day. Having started the nation’s first Teach-In protesting the Viet Nam War in 1965, Michigan students decided to host a second one to support Earth Day.
But since national Earth Day was April 22 in the middle of Michigan’s final exams, the students put on their Teach-In during March 1970—effectively kicking off the first Earth Day. Founder of Earth Day, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson later credited U-M with inspiring groups across the country to join the first Earth Day celebrations a month later.
Speaking on the need for better education on climate change, President Coleman noted that while the science community tracks the increasing environmental damage from carbon emissions, the public is moving the other way. Over the past two years, the number of Americans who think climate change is a hoax has actually gone up from seven to sixteen percent.
Dr. Holdren summarized the thinking among scientists on dealing with climate change. Mitigate environmental harm by reducing greenhouse gases. Adapt to what be can’t mitigated by minimizing the harm. Or suffer irreversible harm to the planet if both mitigation and adaptation fail.
*Above – Dr. Jonathan Bulkley, University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, Dean of SNR and E, Dr. Greg Keolian, SNR and E, pose with Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology, following Holdren’s delivery of the Ninth Annual Peter M. Wege Lecture at the University of Michigan.