MJC hopes to do its part on climate change, starting Friday with a noted speaker

Modesto Junior College is exploring ways to better educate people about climate change, and to make its two campuses more sustainable.

It starts with a Friday, Oct. 25, evening talk by Shahir Masri of the University of California, Irvine. He wrote a recent book that responds to the deniers of this global phenomenon.

The effort will continue over the longer term with possible courses on climate change and ways that the MJC buildings and grounds could be part of the solution.

“There is a visible, broader, swelling awareness of the public about climate change issues in 2019,” said an email from Richard Anderson, professor emeritus of biology at MJC and one of the leaders in the cause.

MJC, founded in 1921 and now serving about 19,000 students, has played a key role in training people in agriculture, health care, business and other fields. Climate change works its way into the instruction at times, but it is not a focus of study on its own.

Earth Science Professor Noah Hughes is another of the leaders in this effort. He lectured recently on how a changing climate could stress almond orchards in eastern Stanislaus County that rely on groundwater.

“This is a threat to the sustainability of agriculture in our area,” he said.

Friday speaker

Masri is the author of “Beyond Debate: Answers to 50 Misconceptions on Climate Change.” He is an air pollution scientist at UC Irvine.

The book lays out the basics: Fossil fuel burning and other human activities have increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, leading to a general warming of the planet. This could shift crops away from the San Joaquin Valley and other bountiful regions. It could mean more wildfires and less snow in the Sierra Nevada. It could inundate coastal areas with oceans swollen by melting glaciers.

Masri’s talk is part of the Modesto Area Partners in Science series. It will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Center on the West Campus.

The audience will be welcomed by MJC President James Houpis, whose background is in environmental science. Admission is free.

Solutions near and far

MJC has taken some steps toward reducing fossil fuel consumption on its east and west campuses. Measure E of 2004 brought a boom in new construction and renovation that included more efficient buildings. One parking area is shaded by solar panels and has charging stations for electric vehicles.

One drawback: MJC is a commuter school, and most students and employees get there by driving rather than bus, bicycle or foot.

The college also is connecting with international efforts against climate change. Philosophy Professor Bill Anelli is a local leader in the Citizens Climate Lobby, which supports a bill in Congress that would impose fees on fossil fuel extraction to encourage renewable energy. The money would go not to government, but to taxpayers.

“Our policy appeals to both the left and the right ideologically on climate change,” Anelli said. “Even if you don’t believe in climate change, this policy would be beneficial for the economy.”

Anderson’s role includes co-producing a video that will detail the local effects of climate change, including farming, human health, wildlife and fire. He was part of the team behind “Homeless in Modesto,” an hour-long video released last year.

This story was originally published October 23, 2019 4:41 PM.

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.
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