November 7, 2007

Students Lobby in Washington

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30 students from Cornell and 50 students from Ithaca College traveled to Washington D.C. last weekend for Power Shift, the first-ever national youth summit on the climate crisis run entirely for and by young people.
“What brought me to D.C. was the same reason that brought so many others — the recognition that this is the fight our generation has inherited, an understanding of the timeline that we have to act on, a feeling that enough is not happening and will not happen unless we act — and a feeling of hope and awe at the power students have when they organize,” said Katherine McEachern ’09, president of KyotoNOW!
KyotoNOW! and the Sustainability Hub worked together to organize the trip by raising funds and securing travel plans for the students participating in the summit. Power Shift was organized by the Energy Action Coalition, a national group consisting of over 50 leading youth environmental and social justice organizations working to leverage their collective power and strengthen the clean energy movement in North America.
The goals of the conference were to motivate U.S. presidential candidates and Congress to take global warming seriously, as well as to empower young leaders to achieve and take initiative publicizing this issue through holding a conference where representatives from the entire country were present. Over 5,000 youth attended the conference where they discussed additional topics related to climate change and global warming such as sustainability, recycling and clean energy.
“[The summit] was the first event of its kind. It was very inspirational to see 5,000 youth willing to take action on such a huge problem,” said attendee Julie Pierce ’09.
“I’ve always been really passionate about the environment. I wanted to learn more about the new technologies, the politics and the current trends surrounding environmental issues,” said Power Shift attendee Aditi Kolhekar ’09.
“We had a huge presence on the Hill on Lobby Day, students from every congressional district that were ready to go back to their community and affect change,” said McEachern.
The summit consisted of workshops and panels during the day which featured many motivational speakers such as Van Jones from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Ralph Nader and Nancy Pelosi.
“It’s nice to know that such important political figures care about global climate change. Hopefully, more political figures who are concerned will win in 2008,” said Pierce. “I encourage everyone to register to vote now so that your voice can be heard in the next election! We will have the strength to cause a power shift if we try!”
At the summit, students discussed their goals which included passing comprehensive legislation that would commit the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
“[The legislation] needs to cap and auction CO2 emissions, with no money going to polluters and all the money invested in developing a green jobs corps. To do this, we need to elect leaders who are committed to taking on this issue, who promise to make this a priority, and then we need to hold them accountable to those promises,” said McEachern.
Cornell is already working toward a better environment. Last spring, President Skorton signed the President’s Climate Commitment, a long-term plan to reduce the University’s carbon emissions.
Cornell also plans to participate in the National Campus Energy Challenge next semester, which will encourage students to reduce energy use on campus. The New York Climate Summit, a conference similar to Power Shift, will also be held at Cornell in a few weeks.
“Although everyone can help out in their own way, a combination of efforts needs to occur to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions,” said Pierce. “As a Chemical Engineer, I plan to use my skills to make chemical processes more environmentally friendly since they are a large source of pollution. If we want our world to be as beautiful as it is now for the next generation, we all have to make a commitment to do our