Student-run climate game show “Late Night for the Planet” combines fun, games and some overall levity
By Chloe Bennett
Most science events don’t start with a banjo and a fiddle. But last Wednesday night at Paul Smith’s College, the Adirondack band High on the Hog showed off string instrument dexterity with classic country music. Band members Marion Hoelzel, Bill Chamberlain and Tyler Dezago mixed some contemporary tunes into the nostalgic set, targeting an audience of younger and older people interested in learning more about the warming Earth.
College students and faculty filled around 40 seats during an hour of interviews and games about climate change.
They were participating in Late Night for the Planet. It debuted in 2019 after two former SUNY Plattsburgh students, Charlie Olsen and Michala Hendrick, decided to take climate education outside of the classroom. The show’s home base is at Olive Ridley’s Taphouse & Grill, a Plattsburgh haunt that offers some informality to the broad topic of climate change.
“Their two conditions were (that) it not happen in a classroom, and that it be in a very public place that had booze involved,” said SUNY Plattsburgh professor Curt Gervich, a show organizer.
Wednesday’s event was the first road trip for the game show, which was hosted by graduate student Kayleen Snyder and undergraduate Gabe Thatcher.
Scientists Lija Treibergs and Brendan Wiltse talked about their work with the Adirondack Watershed Institute.
Wiltse noted that road salt is seeping into groundwater and that ice on Adirondack waters is disappearing from higher temperatures. In the future, Wiltse suggested, perhaps a scientist can compare the current state of the climate to acid rain in past decades, which has improved with regulations.
“Hopefully someone can sit where I am and say we passed legislation that addressed climate change,” Wiltse said.
Treibergs, who researched climate change and lake ecosystems this winter in Antarctica, shared her experience.
“I think when I tell people that I spent a few months in Antarctica, they have this vision of living in a little yellow tent surrounded by nothing but ice and blowing snow and a visit from the occasional penguin,” she said.
For those wondering about her living quarters, the research associate said it wasn’t as remote as most would think. Treibergs lived with other scientists at the McMurdo Station, the largest research center of its kind on the continent. “So it’s really like a mini college campus in a way,” she said.
After a game of Adirondack-themed Pictionary, Aiden Ripp, a Paul Smith’s College student and Nordic skier, told the crowd that he worried about the future of snow and ice.
Speaking with experienced ski jumpers, Ripp said he learned that places such as Chicago used to host skiing events. But that ended because of the lack of snow in the city.
Avoiding dread about the planet’s future is key to the game show, which happens once a month during the fall and spring semesters. Gervich said most attendees walk away more optimistic than they were before attending Late Night, according to a survey administered by the organizers.
“I’m really proud of the students because this isn’t something that they’re trained to do,” Gervich said. “We’re not a group of theater students or performers. They’re all environmental science students who have a passion for science communication and it’s pretty courageous what they’re doing.”