Students Attend U.N. Climate Change Conference
Four Alma College students and two faculty members will attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP 15, in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.
Students Adam Ellsworth, Ben Roberts, Samantha LaChance and Renee Willoughby, along with faculty members Murray Borrello and Micheal Vickery, will travel to Denmark as Alma College representatives in the University of Michigan delegation, led by Richard B. Rood, professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences. Borrello will serve as associate head of delegation.
The Alma College representatives will be among an anticipated 10,000-plus people from around the world engaging in and observing the climate change conversation.
The students will have “observer” status at the conference, where a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 is to be addressed by representatives of more than 180 countries.
The group also will attend and participate in various workshops and forums related to the conference, such as those of People’s Climate Action, an organization that serves as a strategic platform for non-governmental organization (NGO) activities.
Alma College political science professor Ed Lorenz, who encouraged the students to find a way to attend the conference, says the goal of the trip is to gain information and develop a plan to help the United States move to the forefront of the climate change conversation.
In addition to giving central Michigan a presence at the global event—a crowd of 10,000 to 20,000 is expected by the Danish Foreign Ministry—the students hope to gain valuable personal experiences and useful skills they can use to help lead the climate change conversation when they return.
While Saginaw sophomore Roberts is interested in seeing how his biology and chemistry majors can be used to meet the challenges of climate change, LaChance, a Mount Pleasant sophomore, wants to see what business and non-profit organizations in other countries have been doing to move toward environmental sustainability. Ellsworth, a Greenville junior and communications major, and South Lyon junior and art major Willoughby also will explore their individual interests.
“I feel that artists and designers have the capacity to bridge the gap between citizens and policy makers, and that is what will cause this movement to make a difference,” says Willoughby, who is studying graphic design. “This conference has the ability to change our lives permanently.”
Ellsworth is visiting Denmark for a second time. He participated in a spring term class taught by Vickery and Borrello last May that explored renewable energy in Sweden and Denmark.
“People who are in denial about climate change are going to Copenhagen, and you also have the people, like those in the Maldives, who are directly experiencing the real effects of climate change,” says Ellsworth. “Their country is disappearing, and it could be gone by the end of the century so I want to look at creating a consensus among those on opposite ends of the spectrum of concerns about climate change.”
Though their academic majors are different, the students realize working together is key.
“You can have all the scientific advancements you want, but if you can’t communicate it and show the benefits, they’re pretty much useless,” says Roberts. “We represent a good variety of perspectives and skills that need to work coherently together to promote change.”
When the group began researching how to get involved, only 40 days were left until the conference, and they were many weeks past the deadline for delegate applications. The group contacted the University of Michigan delegation, and Rood happily added them to his delegation of now 40. A delegation from Wayne State University also is attending.
“These are terrific young people who are committed to turning their passions for learning and service into action,” says Vickery, who co-directs the Center for Responsible Leadership at Alma College with Borrello. “We’re totally confident that they will use the knowledge and skills they bring back from Copenhagen to help others understand and respond to the risks and opportunities that are before us.”
The students have started a blog that they will use to keep the campus and community connected to the events and experiences they will be witnessing first-hand in Copenhagen. The blog can be found at: http://michstudentsatcopenhagenconference.wordpress.com.
Posted: Sat, December 5th, 2009 at 12:51PM