The second presidential debate takes place Tuesday, at Hofstra University, from 9-10:30 p.m. While tickets for the debate are extremely limited, some Hofstra students and faculty will be on the premises. Patch caught up with Bob Brinkmann, professor and director of Hofstra's Sustainability Studies, Department of Geology, Environment, and Sustainability; and
Patch: You've participated in activities leading up to the debate at Hofstra. What sort of activities?
Bob Brinkmann: Hofstra University organized many activities around the debate this semester. Perhaps the most impressive of these is a lecture series that brought in many of the nation's important thinkers, speakers, and pundits. Everyone from Karl Rove to Cornel West have been on campus. It's been an impressive lineup!
I was lucky enough to have one of the major speakers, the noted green jobs expert, Van Jones, interact with my students as part of a panel I organized for Hofstra's annual Day of Dialogue event. The panel focused on the environment and the elections and we discussed a number of important issues around this issue. Jones was President Obama's green energy czar for a time and he had a number of important insights regarding the role of the elections in the future of green jobs and energy.
[On Monday], my class is interacting with a delegation from Haiti and Jamaica who are visiting our country to observe the debate process. I [was] anxious to have them discuss the role of the environment around decision making in the Caribbean.
Patch: Is the debate sparking enthusiasm among local voters who might not otherwise get to the polls? If so, how?
BB: After the vice presidential debate last week when the moderator announced that the next Presidential debate was to be at Hofstra University, I heard from friends from all over the country asking me about the event. So, it's not just local voters, but people from all over the country are focused like a laser on Tuesday's debate. Certainly there is a major buzz and excitement on Long Island about the event. But this election is so tight and the future of our country depends on what happens on campus on Tuesday.
Patch: Tell us about your panel, "Sustainability, the Environment and the Elections." What were the takeaways?
BB: The main thing we discussed is that there is a surprising lack of environmental discourse around the election. Neither candidate is making the environment a significant election topic--even in a year that has seen growing evidence of global climate change and expansion of many other environmental problems like access to natural resources, pollution, and destruction of coral reefs. Even the Websites of the candidates have limited information. Instead, the focus seems to be limited and around energy and green jobs. These are valuable topics, but certainly not the only environmental issue out there. Plus, there is a great deal of incorrect information on green jobs and energy in the media right now due to the positions of the various campaigns for federal, state, and local office. Thus, the kind of conversations that the candidates are having are not really productive ones for our nation.
We also discussed the philosophy of the two candidates and the overall record of each on the environment. Their records and philosophies are extremely different. While President Obama has not done as much as most environmentalist would like, Governor Romney is advocating widespread deregulation and pulling back of environmental rules.
I cannot remember a presidential election in the past when there has been so limited discussion around environmental issues. It doesn't matter where you stand on the issues, we need good healthy discussion around these topics in order to better understand the options and the impacts of our decisions.
Patch: What's the most exciting part for you about being involved in the debate?
BB: Universities have always been magical places to me because they are where you can interact with the greatest minds our our nation. Hofstra University in particular has amazing students, faculty, and staff. The discussions I have had this semester around the debate with my colleagues, students, and visiting experts have been enlightening and inspirational. Anyone who doesn't believe in the future of our country needs to spend some time talking to our students. They are changing the world.