Monday, January 8, 2007

day 3, part 2: we're talking science

after the closings, tables were invited to nominate people to do their closing in front of the group - closings in particular that had good calls to action. a few of the people looked at me with a “you go!” look and my heart started to race again. a few people stood up, and i was about to volunteer when we moved on to another section. next time.

now it was time to practice some of the science slides. this is where i get really nervous. well, this and the q&a, but we’ll get to that later. we broke into smaller rooms of 50 or so per room, led by our regional mentor, a sr. mentor (both from the first 50 people to receive the training) and one of the climate project staff. we were going to try to get through 5 small sections, with the mentor demonstrating once, and then 5 of us presenting the slides to the room. our sr. mentor (tim) said if there were no volunteers he would “pick on you. why? because thousands of people wanted to be here, and YOU are the ones chosen. and it is your responsibility to get he most you possibly can out of this training.”

the first section was the “about global warming” section. compared to some of the rest of the slides, this was a relatively easy one because the science is not that difficult and everyone sort of knows how it works. now, the point of this section was presentation skills - not science questions and debates, but unfortunately our group got a little bogged down in the science of it again. does the infrared light *actually* reflect off the earth or is it emanated from the objects on the earth’s surface? does the atmosphere actually get more dense with the addition of more CO2 or is it just because of the composition that does not allow as much infrared light to get through? after a little while, we managed to get the point though, and focus on the presentation rather than the content itself.

i definitely wanted to practice presenting a section because i feel quite uneasy about how i can possibly be credible given the lack of my science background. i wanted to practice and since i figured there would be no more receptive and kind of an audience as some of my fellow trainees, now was the time. for the first section i raised my hand every time, but was not called on.

the second section is one of the more difficult sections in the presentation, if not the most difficult. in it, you are talking about temperature and CO2-concentration data pulled from giant ice-cores going back thousands, and then hundreds of thousands, of years. we present the correlation of CO2 content to the relative temperature of the earth, and how there is a natural cycle of increases and decreases. the graph also plots where we are now and where the CO2 is headed if we stay on our present course. finally, it transitions to the the actual temperatures that have been recorded since 1860, where you can see for the past 30 years, they’ve been on the increase, and how the ten hottest years since then have been in the last 14 years.

not exactly simple.

i wasn’t going to volunteer for this one because it’s hard, but then decided that it was precisely because it’s hard that i should volunteer. brace self-raise hand. two folks went and on the third, tim picked someone in the back of the room, but then looked at me and said “and then her, right there, because she has had her hand raised every single time.” ~cringe~ damn, called out.

the woman in front of me had presented the material the most clear of all those who had gone before. nerves built up and tim nodded, “okay, get up here”. there were a lot of scientists and people who were educated far more than i in science. i looked around the room and introduced myself. “hi, i’m jen and i’m not a science person, so please be nice.” everyone laughed, which put me a bit at ease.

50 people packed into small room is kind of intimidating, even if they are nice. especially when you know there are people who have probably written books (or at least articles) on the subject matter you're presenting. i went through each of the slides, explaining each at an even pace, and trying to quell the bit of nervousness that i could hear in my voice. i really want to be a conversational, accessible presenter, and i tried to remember certain things that mr. gore had instructed us to do, such as show how the top of the temperature spike is the equivalent of a nice day in chicago, and the bottom of the spike would be the city under two feet of ice. i made it though the slides without any huge slip ups.

when i finished, i got an enthusiastic round of applause, a thumbs up from my friend mike and one of the women who had been in my small group smiled and said “great job!” i was pretty proud, and continued to be so. because of all the questions, we only managed to get through one more section, one where we discuss why there is so much confusion over whether or not global warming is a reality. and then, it was back to the larger room. on the way there, one of the men stopped me, and said “hey, don’t apologize for not being a science person! you did a really great job, i mean that, and you do not have to apologize. i think you were the best presenter in there.” i blushed and thanked him.

if i can get through that on the first day, i know i can do this presentation justice once i start practicing.



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