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A rural teacher with global reach

Greg Craven of Monmouth, Ore., shot a low-tech video on climate change that is attracting a major online audience.

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"He would work at home when we were asleep and at school when we were awake," says his wife, Jodi Coleman, who taught grade school for eight years before becoming a full-time mom. "We just didn't see much of him, and I tried to keep the kids out of his hair."

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The productions are simple and plain-spoken. Craven talks rapidly into his home computer, occasionally trading comments with his "foil" – himself wearing funny hats and occasionally firing off tabletop pyrotechnics of the type he uses in class.

The first video received several thousand comments – many of them dismissive or critical, some of them scary and threatening. And though he cites such highly regarded sources as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (but not the IPCC, which itself is controversial), many climate-change skeptics remain unswayed by his arguments.

Climate-change skeptic Warren Meyer, a Phoenix businessman whose blog includes many detailed postings and videos on climate change, calls Craven's video "a clever kind of sleight of hand," particularly regarding the likely economic costs of major government policies.

"He argues that one buys car insurance without actually knowing if he is going to crash his car or how much such a crash might cost," Mr. Meyer says. "I would retort, 'Yes, but you wouldn't pay $35,000 for car insurance if you only had a $30,000 car.' Costs matter a lot, as does the magnitude of risk."

Thomas Demelo, a junior in Craven's chemistry class, is not totally convinced by his teacher's arguments about global warming. "It really did get me to think about it, though," he says. Thomas, who's been taught by Craven since freshman year, calls him "a really good teacher who likes what he's teaching and gets the class involved."

Alicia Brown, a senior in Craven's physics class, likes his emphasis on critical thinking, as well as his ability to get students excited about the subjects he teaches.

"He's made a history and English nerd like me like math and science," she says.

So far, the 44 additional videos have not taken off like "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See" and "How It All Ends."

"That's the nature of a nonlinear system," Craven says with a hint of disappointment. "But I get a number of contacts a day, and that keeps me going. People have said I've changed their behavior.... People have made websites and discussion forums."

He realizes it's all a bit quixotic.

"My mission in this is to change the culture," Craven says, "so that a policymaker can't turn around without somebody saying 'Hey! What are you doing about climate change?' We need significant changes in the basis of our modern society, which is cheap, easily accessible fossil fuels."

His efforts have become a bit bewildering and sometimes exhausting. "It's been hard to think I'm not delusional.... I need to get back to being a husband and a daddy," he says, speaking of Jodi and their young daughters, Katie and Alex.

But something keeps pushing him forward.

"This line from a Dave Matthews song – 'Did I do all that I could?' – kept running through my head," he says. "If this doesn't save the world, it at least allows me some moral absolution. It allows me to know that my daughters will forgive me because I did the best I could."

More from Greg Craven

In introducing his 44 YouTube videos on climate change, now available with scripts on several websites, Greg Craven says, in part:

"Please take this script as the starting point in a folk process. That means that you are welcome and encouraged to improve upon it – whether that means correcting typos, bringing it into line with the actual video (so that it is an actual transcript), condensing it and refilming your own version, adding to it with your own original material, whatever – go for it!... I am explicitly putting this all into the public domain, so that you do not need my permission for anything. Do whatever you want with it – just get the ideas to spread as widely and quickly as possible! I'd suggest that you put a note at the top of any new version you create, specifying the nature of the changes you made, so that posterity can sort it all out when the history is written of how we all saved the world – I mean, our own hides – through the nonlinear system of Internet communications."

Here are some links:

The original "How It All Ends" video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF_anaVcCXg

Craven's website: www.wonderingmind42.com

Craven's MySpace page: www.myspace.com/gcraven

An article by Craven on teaching climate change: www.pbs.org/kcet/wiredscience/education/2007/10/featured-teacher-greg-craven.html

Skeptic Warren Meyer responds: www.climate-skeptic.com/2007/12/reponse-to-greg.html

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