April 24, 2007

Kyoto Now! Wins MTV Environmental Contest

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While the campaign to stop global warming may be an uphill battle, Cornell students proved yesterday that students can have a big impact in the fight. Yesterday the group Kyoto Now! was announced as the winner of thinkMTV’s Break the Addiction Final Exam contest, which challenged campus organizations across the country to submit evidence of educational activities and policy advocacy to reduce their school’s global warming pollution. Kyoto Now! won $10,000 toward an eco-renovation for their student center on campus and was featured on MTV’s Total Request Live yesterday for a special Earth Day episode.
ThinkMTV is a campaign that promotes discussion and action about important issues for young people. This specific contest was part of thinkMTV’s Break the Addiction, a 12-month campaign launched on Earth Day 2006 to “educate and empower young people to make daily choices that improve their life and simultaneously curb the impact of global warming and preserve the environment,” according to an MTV press release.
“When people historically have talked to young people about the global warming, they only talk about the problems associated with it,” said Ian Rowe ’85, vice president of public affairs for MTV. “We want to talk about the opportunities that are created … and this campaign is a way for students to come up with their own ideas to make their school greener.”
According to the press release, competing groups were judged based on how effectively they were able to get their schools to adopt policies to reduce pollution that leads to global warming and to what extent the group was able to educate other students about global warming solutions.
The contest was co-sponsored by the Campus Climate Challenge, which was started by the Energy Action Coalition, a group of 41 organizations nationwide striving to get clean energy policies passed on different campuses. In the Break the Addiction contest, Kyoto Now! stood out among them.
“Cornell students have been doing an amazing amount of work in terms of educating other students and the administration as well as pushing for strong policy,” said Michael Crawford, communications director for the Campus Climate Challenge.
Kyoto Now! was established at Cornell in 2001 to promote University action and policy for climate change and energy use and calls for the University to sign policies of the Kyoto protocol. Kyoto Now! won the contest for their latest initiative, Beyond Kyoto, which aims to move the campus toward further reduction of global warming pollution.
“It is our initiative to push us further because the Kyoto protocol is a good first step, but it is not enough,” said Katherine McEachern ’09, vice president of Kyoto Now!
Specifically, the group won the contest by gathering approximately 5,000 signatures last year for a petition demanding that President David Skorton sign onto the President’s Climate Commitment, which commits Cornell to work toward a climate-neutral campus by 2050. The commitment was organized through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and it involves many steps that include using renewable energy and offsetting carbon emissions. Kyoto Now! Hopes to achieve this goal by spending extra money on more efficient lab equipment or appliances for labs and dining halls and purchasing a hot water heater that runs on solar energy.
The students of Kyoto Now! also fought to raise student activities fees by five dollars a semester to alleviate some of the costs of the climate neutral commitment.
“The green fee was a student referendum for a five dollar fee per semester for renewable energy projects on campus,” McEachern said on TRL.
Kyoto Now! also helped to organize last week’s Feel the Heat campaign, which included events on campus to promote global warming awareness such as a campus-wide Earth Day celebration and a seminar by a speaker trained by former Vice President Al Gore to share themes and facts from Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth.”
Kyoto Now! is not yet sure how they will spend the $10,000 prize, but it will go toward an eco-renovation on campus.
“Since we just realized we won, we’re not sure what we’re going to do with it,” McEachern said.
“There’s a lot of options and we’re really excited about the possibilities.”
Members of the New Jersey Student Public Interest Groups from Rutgers University also won the award for work to reduce global warming pollution 90 percent by 2050 and for their plan to build a student center that operates entirely on solar energy.