One of the issues facing educators of earth system science is how to teach the policy relevance of this discipline to students with mostly science backgrounds and interests. A “mini-Rio Summit” has been added to the earth system science curriculum at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to address this issue. Just as the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, provided a forum for the nations of the world to voice and share their opinions on environmental protection and the move toward sustainable development, the mini-Rio Summit offered an avenue for students to express their concerns regarding global environmental change and to confront some of the intricacies of global decision making. By encouraging dialogue among students (nations) on topics of global change, the minisummit broadened students' awareness of particular political and socioeconomic considerations that individual countries must face when developing policy to deal with global change. Student reviews of the summit were enthusiastic and indicated that the summit was a successful method of bringing them more in touch with the complexities involved in dealing with the physical and human aspects of global change.

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