In my opininon | Duceré Useré Cycleré
By: Josh Grenzsund | Columnist
Issue date: 1/30/08
"Turn on. Tune in. Drop out."
I've used this Timothy Leary quote before, to poor effect, but it's
appropriate to use today as we face global climate change and have a
nationwide one-day opportunity to realize a critical mass of social awareness.
Thursday, Jan. 31 is Focus the Nation, a nationwide "teach-in" that
organizers hope will be the '00 environmental equivalent of actions
in the '60s and '70s that resulted from the civil rights movement,
women's rights movement and protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam.
The hope of this "teach-in" is to influence not only how the issue of
global climate change plays in society, but also how this issue plays
in the selection of each party's presidential nominee.
This organizational pitch of a "teach-in" theme made me think of
other ideas that were flowing through college-aged social
consciousness, some three or four decades back, that have
recognizable parallels to the closing edge of this decade. This is
where we need to consider Leary and his impact on the way we remember
the "hippie era."
If we're actually going to realize wide-sweeping social, industrial
and economic change, in terms of our concern about the climate, we've
got to capitalize on the inertia of ideas that are already present in
While many people consider Leary's catch phrase as a call to drop out
of college and drop acid, his own account of the idea behind this
call to action is much more nuanced, which he explained in his
Leary advocated that each individual individual should "turn on" by
finding ways to "interact harmoniously with the world." Once turned
on, the individual could then "tune in" to the significance and
presence of her or his personal existence by becoming "sensitive to
the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific
triggers that engage them." The subsequent "drop out" was in effect
little more than "self-reliance" in so much as it was "an elective,
selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or
If you set aside Leary's drug use and drug advocacy for a moment and
look at this call to action logically and structurally, it is very
similar to what many of our politicians, scientists and environmental
activists are telling us right now. We need to find ways to cause
less impact on our environment and live more harmoniously with the
cycles that have sustained our existence up to this point - turn on.
We need to become aware of how our individual and collective actions
impact the quality and quantity of future human life - tune in. And
we need to implement these solutions in our lifestyles and industrial
and economic systems - drop out.
These parallels, substituting intellectual thought and creative
entrepreneurial acuity for LSD and mushrooms, hold the potential for
us to change the world. That's why most of us came to college in the
first place, right? So how do we make the next move?
Well, it's you - especially all you University instructors and
professors - you need to take your students to the Focus the Nation
events tomorrow because the one-time opportunity to academically and
seriously address climate change issues far outweighs the
20-or-30-times-a-term opportunity to address coursework.
This is our future that we're dealing with here, and it cannot be
dealt with lightly or delayed indefinitely to "another day,
sometime." Focus the Nation is that day, and that day is Jan. 31, 2008.
Take the initiative. Use your professional skills to demonstrate how
life, academics, learning and simple presence on a university campus
are relevant to each individual's contribution to creating a global
climate change problem, or realizing a global climate change solution.
If you ignore this call to action, then on Friday, Feb. 1, 2008, and
later, on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, and even on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2028,
a little voice in your head will whisper, "what if?" What if you had
invested one hour of class time, way back in 2008 to spark a little
inspiration in the mind of a University of Oregon student? What if?
If you choose to teach class instead of take your students to Focus
the Nation, in 20 years you will not remember what you taught that
day. You will not even remember what class you were teaching that
term. But you will remember that you made a conscious decision to
place the importance of one hour of class time over the importance of
the chance to initiate positive social and environmental change on a
Opportunities like this do not come often.
Embrace this moment, when Al Gore's decades of advocacy have given us
a hunger to do good, when Barak Obama, in his historic move toward
the presidency, implores "everybody to be involved with [Focus the
Nation]… the largest campus teach-in, on global warming, in U.S.
history," and when even George W. Bush, freshly showered in sweet
crude, calls on us in his State of the Union swan song to "complete
an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and
eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases."
Now is not the time to hesitate and think that somebody else will do
something. You and your students are those "somebody elses," so go,
tune in, and on Monday, Feb. 1, 2038 we will all look back and
remember, "Yeah, I was there."