Students Urge Congress To Set Greener Course

This story was written by Patsy Morrow, The Diamondback
They came in green hard hats, multicolored bandannas and even a full raccoon costume.

National Wildlife Federation employee Kristin Kranendonk dressed as children's magazine character Ranger Rick, who teaches children about nature and has incorporated global warming into his repertoire.

Festive costumes, yes, but demonstrators attended Monday's rally with serious intentions: To force Congress to change course on environmental policy. Organizers estimated as many as 4,000 activists from across the country traveled to the Capitol for the culmination of this weekend's Power Shift 2007 conference.

The event, thought to be the largest of its kind ever, brought House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), head of the newly formed Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, to the campus along with a slew of speakers and conservation workshops.

"Basically, we're trying to get heard as students and constituents," said Natalie Hogg from Valdosta State University in Georgia, standing on the West Lawn of the Capitol where rally members gathered at noon. "This is definitely history in the making."

Demonstrators beseeched members of Congress to meet the priorities of the 1Sky Campaign, a national movement aimed at producing meaningful national climate legislation.

The campaign has three goals: creating environmental jobs, known as green jobs, cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and ending construction of new coal power plants.

Chanting activists drew security personnel in the Capitol building, and senators poked their heads out of their offices to see the commotion.

"We wanted to bring attention to our congressmen that the climate issues is not going to stop," said Kate Tecku from St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

Speaker Jessy Tolkan, the campaign director for Power Shift told the crowd to yell loud enough to be heard by members of Congress.

"It's all I expected and more," said Cameron Field from St. Olaf College. "The energy and the city is unexplainable. There's just a vibe here you get when you walk around."

Overall, participants were impressed with the turnout and the attention they were able to draw.

"I think it's a great ending to a really amazing weekend," said Lauren Valle from Columbia University in New York. "We're on Capitol Hill in person working on the global warming campaign to get constituents to put pressure on Congress."

Still, some felt the rally failed to meet expectations.

"I feel like it's really commercial," said Zac Kaczanowski of Central Michigan University. "I feel like it's really controlled. I wanted it to be way bigger and a little more drug use."

Most agreed the highlight was meeting with members of Congress.

Participants had the opportunity to attend a congressional hearing. Five representatives from the youth climate movement spoke and Billy Parish, one of those five representatives, led the crowd in chants.

The hearing drew hundreds of Power Shift participants, said Reagan Richmond from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

"I've been to a lot of hearings and I've never seen it that packed or emotional," said Valle. "People were chanting and crying."

Jeremy Shirey of Berea College in Kentucky agreed.

"It was amazing because we brought up so many things," Shirey said. "It's moving, it's shaking and we're doing this."
© 2007 The Diamondback via U-WIRE