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Mark Hertsgaard Speaks at Honors Convocation

Author of “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth” Addresses Honors College Students
Mark Hertsgaard Speaks at Honors Convocation

Author and reporter Mark Hertsgaard speaks to students at the Honors Convocation

Members of what Mark Hertsgaard refers to as “Generation Hot” gathered Wednesday to listen to the author speak about his most recent book, “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years”.

LSU Honors College students congregated in the Cotillion Ballroom to listen to Hertsgaard, a renowned reporter and author, speak at this year’s annual Honors College Convocation about his book, which has been chosen as the Honors College Shared Read. The author of six books includingEarth Odyssey”, and “Nuclear, Inc., Hertsgaard has spent his career writing about the changing and turbulent climate, and the effect humanity has on the environment.  

“Generation Hot”, or the generation that, as adults, will live through the hottest climate conditions humanity has ever experienced, is a phrase Hertsgaard uses in “Hot” to reiterate the severity of humanity’s burden of climate change. Hertsgaard argues that, as evidenced by the leading climate scientists of the international community, climate change is caused by humanity, and it is up to humanity to stop it.

After thanking Dean Clark and greeting the students, Hertsgaard spoke about how honored he was that the Honors College chose his book for the Honors College Shared Read, and how the students at the Convocation were taking the next step in promoting a crucial dialogue of critical thinking.

“Any writer is so deeply grateful when a reader engages with their work,” said Hertsgaard. “It is a back and forth. That's what engagement is about, and all an author can ask is that you engage with the text—that you read the text, and you take it seriously.”

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues in the arena of climate change is the political doubt cast upon the science of the situation. Hertsgaard spoke of how 18 of the world’s leading National Academies of Science have spoken out against the myth that climate change doesn’t exist. These scientists have affirmed that climate change does exist, it’s man-made, and we need to fix it.

“It's very hard to deal with a problem that you don't want to admit exists,” said Hertsgaard. “If it's not true, [these scientists] are either one of two things: they’re either grossly incompetent, or they're outrageously dishonest."

According to Hertsgaard, if Louisiana politicians and citizens accept the truth of climate change, Louisiana can be a leader in the clean energy movement, as well as in the creation of a model of how to live with the already unavoidable climate change.

The big question that everyone eventually asks is “What can we do?”. Hertsgaard presented a three-step process to dealing with this difficult problem.

“The first thing to do is to start educating yourself about this, and start talking about it with your friends, your family, your neighbors, your church, whoever it may be,” said Hertsgaard. “Educating yourself beyond what you're hearing in the mass media coverage.”

Secondly, Hertsgaard recommends getting involved.

“Do something beyond talking about [the issue], beyond thinking about it. It's one thing to be concerned about an issue, worried about that issue, expressing an opinion about that issue, that's all to the good, but at the end of the day that's not changing much. “

Finally, there is nothing more urgent than political action. Students and citizens rallying to prevent such monstrosities as further coal plant production can make very real and noticeable changes in the climate battle.

Freshman and Computer Science student Grant Bourque felt that “Hot” hit the message of climate change home for him.

"I already kind of believed in climate change, but I think "Hot" made it a lot more memorable for me,” said Borque. “I actually enjoyed the talk more than the book. I think the talk was much better aimed at us, because he looked at it more from our perspective."

Similarly, Freshman and Biological Engineering student Gabrielle Brewer felt that Hertsgaard’s talk presented universal messages.

“He was talking about his book, but also a huge expansion of that and how he can use that to impact people in the world as a whole,” said Brewer. “He was relating it to how we live our lives normally to how we can relate to the facts, [as well as] impacting people around us in order to hopefully better the environment and better our future, because we're going to be the ones living through this."

Thursday, Hertsgaard held a question and answer session in the Grand Salon, where students encountered him to talk one-on-one about their queries and concerns.

This student involvement, interest, and bonding to tackle the big problems is, as Hertsgaard mentioned in his final point of the three-step process, fundamental to creating change.

“None of us can do this alone,” said Hertsgaard. “It takes others.”

Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis, LSU Honors College

For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831