Scholarships make D.C. trip possible for Campus Climate Challenge

Shannon Buckham

This past weekend, Washington, D.C. was a hot spot for student activists seeking ways that they could positively influence the environment. Members of Whitman’s Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) accounted for 15 out of the more than 11,000 college students and youth from across the nation and around the world who converged on the nation’s capitol for Power Shift ’09, a youth conference aimed at solving the pressing climate crisis.

Lobby requests made by Power Shift participants
– Cut carbon dramatically and immediately
– Invest in a green economy
– Power the future with clean energy
– Lead the world to a clean and equitable energy future

Whitman CCC was able to send more members to this year’s conference than to the first Power Shift held in 2007 thanks to scholarships from the Sierra Student Coalition and funding from ASWC and the Environmental Studies Department.

The variety of speakers, workshops, panels and a concert by the Roots kept participants busy throughout the weekend. Regional networking sessions provided CCC members the opportunity to connect with other schools in the region and find any collaboration within their projects.

“This historical conference provided us a great opportunity to see what students are doing on their campuses across the country in terms of sustainability,” said CCC Co-President sophomore Gary Wang.

Participants also had the opportunity to participate in the largest act of civil disobedience related to climate issues in a protest at the Capital coal plant.   Prominent environmental activists and leaders Visionaries such as Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams and Mike Tidwell peacefully blockaded with hundreds of youth the dirty plant, just a few blocks from the capital building.

“Students with green hard hats were everywhere on the capital. As a whole we met with over 350 representatives. Whitman students all met with Representative McMorris from Walla Walla’s district, and we’ve invited her to a town hall in April.   Whitman students also went to meetings with people from their home states,” said junior Elena Gustafson.

In their arrival back at Whitman CCC Power Shift ’09 attendees plan to stay involved in the effort to protect our environment. They will be speaking for a few minutes at Terry Tempest Williams’ talk on Thursday evening and will have a Power Shift presentation on Apr. 1 for Whitman and the Walla Walla community. The students plan to involve Walla Walla political leaders in their plans for the near future.

“Essentially, we want to create a constructive dialogue with the College and the wider community on what the appropriate measures for people to take, not as students, faculty, or business leaders, but as human beings, on preventing catastrophic climate change,” said Wang.