"I CHANGE people's perspectives on climate change by making it relevant to their lives. This ranges from making it personal to how it is affecting what they eat."
—Mike Hoffmann, Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions
I would be very happy to spend most of my time speaking to any and all audiences about our rapidly warming climate. Conservative, liberal, acceptors, deniers, it does not make a difference as I love the challenge of conveying the message about climate change and to get others to raise their voices as well. I do this mostly by meeting the audience on their ground and use my life experiences to get us there – farm kid from a one cow dairy in Wisconsin, US Marine and Vietnam Veteran, parent of two daughters, and a leader in the land grant university system who is responsible to see the big picture. And like the Homeland Security slogan - If you see something, say something” – I plan to continue to raise my voice about climate change for the rest of my life.
The following testimonial is from Dr. Mark A. Sarvary, Public Science Event Advisor, Science Cabaret, Ithaca, NY.
"Professor Hoffmann engaged an incredibly diverse audience and educated them about the effects of climate change during a recent science café in downtown Ithaca, NY. He has the ability to reach his audience whether they are local farmers, businessmen, wine makers, fellow academics or home schooled children, all who attended this science café. He relates climate change to the everyday life of his audience members, and thanks to Professor Hoffmann the science café attendees became more climate literate."
We truly face a grand challenge with our changing climate and while Director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station we created a culture of sustainability driven by the need to reduce costs as well as reduce our carbon footprint. All 50+ staff were empowered to find better ways for us to operate the several research farms, four acres of greenhouses and additional plant growth facilities all supporting hundreds of research and educational activities. The Sustainable Action Team, made up of staff and managers, came up with dozens and dozens of ways to improve how we operated including a strong component focused on the well-being of employees. The results were inspiring, leading to huge reductions in costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Giving everyone a larger purpose and supporting new and bold ideas pays off big.
I am now co-chair of Cornell’s Campus-wide Engagement Campaign focused on behavioral change and will use the Experiment Station example as a model to follow. This is the human behavior component of Cornell’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. Our goal is to ensure that everyone—staff, faculty, and students—fully appreciate the challenge climate change poses now and into the future and are equipped to know what to do about it, on campus and beyond. It is an incredible opportunity to partner with others and empower and inspire over 30,000 people! I also co-direct the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, which is helping those who grow our food in New York State and across the Northeast to remain resilient in the face of increasing extremes in temperatures and rainfall that are now becoming the norm—agriculture is no longer business as usual. And it is not just local—our globally interconnected and interdependent food system is beginning to unravel.
Whenever I have the chance I continue to raise my voice. My TEDx talk – Climate Change: It’s time to raise our voices, has been well received. I also publish op eds. including the following:
A changing climate means a changing menu –an article about how our food (menu), from bread to coffee, is changing.
Climate change is not a hoax — ask any millennial seeing it firsthand – a story about undergraduates visiting the Mekong Delta and seeing climate change firsthand and where climate change is not a hoax.
Vietnam — a microcosm of a globally changing climate – my personal story of returning to Vietnam after 47 years to see a vibrant and forgiving country now subject to the effects of our (US) greenhouse gas emissions. Another battle for Vietnam.
Climate change: A call to action! – a seminar given at Cornell University that describes in more detail how our food system is changing.
And I continue to raise my voice in different venues and to different audiences such as:
American Craft Spirits Association Annual Convention. Chicago, IL, A Changing Climate: What it means to you and the future of your business. March 3, 2016.
Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative. Ithaca, NY, The impact of climate change on agriculture. April 29, 2016.
Environmental Section and Agriculture and Rural Issues Committee of the New York State Bar Association: Webinar, Agriculture and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for the Region's Farmers and Agri-Businesses. February 11, 2016.
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture annual meeting, State College, PA, Impacts, Opportunities & Adaptations: Climate Smart Farming in the Northeast. February 5, 2016.
Climate change is a grand challenge, some say a “wicked problem” but giving up is not an option. When I slip and begin to despair I remember my two daughters and what their future will look like if we continue on our current trajectory. But whatever the outcome during their lives, they will know that their dad tried. That is the best I can do.