Last Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, two freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, and one senior flew to Washington D.C. to represent Carleton at Power Shift 2007. Power Shift 2007 is “the first-ever national youth conference on environmental concerns” with a goal of starting a united movement to create a clean energy future and reduce our carbon footprint.
The conference was an opportunity to educate its members via panel discussions on topics including global warming, climate change, making campuses greener, making campuses carbon neutral, and international environmental policies. Consistent with the purposes of the event, Carleton’s SOPE, Students Organized to Protect the Environment, paid for carbon offsets for the trip, so the travel portion of the trip to Washington was completely carbon neutral.
The 5,000-student conference had representatives from all 50 states. A pre-conference rally was held in College Park on Friday, and the official conference was held on Saturday, Sunday and part of Monday at the University of Maryland.
The conference kickoff speaker was Van Jones, an environmentalist and human rights activist. Other influential speakers included consumer activist and former Presidential candidate, Ralph Nadar and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Elizabeth Webb ′09, co-president of SOPE and fellow member Ray McGaughey ′11 organized the trip. Originally 13 Carls showed interest in attending the conference; however, funding for only seven was granted. SOPE chose applicants based on the likelihood that “these people would take what they learned and apply it [to Carleton],” said McGaughey.
The Carleton Student Association (CSA), Environmental Studies Department (ENTS), and President Oden’s Office provided funding for the conference. SOPE received $1,219 from CSA, $260 from ENTS, and $1,000 from the President Oden’s Office, for a total of $2,419 for the trip.
Originally, SOPE asked for all its funding from the President’s Office, but understandably, “he didn’t think his Office alone could fund us,” McGaughey said. SOPE next turned to CSA for which they had to submit a budget committee proposal. The Power Shift 2007 trip was brought up at a CSA senate meeting by Bessie Schwarz ′08; however, SOPE did not receive as much money as they had asked for from the senate.
“I understand why the budget committee didn’t want to give them as much money as I thought they should because you’re dealing with other people’s money,” said Elizabeth Gray ’08, a senate member who voted for giving SOPE the full funding.
“The reason I voted to give them all they asked for was because I thought that this conference was an exception in that Carleton, as an environmentally aware campus, has recently become a leader in environmentalism and this conference is part of that,” Gray said.
At the same time, Gray said she understood the arguments against providing SOPE with a larger amount of money for Power Shift 2007.
“Sending people to conferences usually isn’t a good use of student activities money because it only affects those people attending. It’s different from bringing someone onto campus, which benefits the entire student body. But I think that this is going to benefit Carleton students in a serious way.”
The seven students who attended Power Shift 2007 returned Tuesday, Nov. 6. According to Webb and Gray, the biggest thing they took away from the conference was networking with other colleges. Eight schools were represented from Minnesota alone, including Macalester College and St. Olaf.
SOPE is now expected to disseminate to Carleton the knowledge gained at the conference. Besides talking with President Oden, and presenting to the CSA, SOPE was also asked to sponsor an event by ENTS. SOPE plans to host an unofficial chili night winter term open to all students during which sustainability and global warming will be discussed.
SOPE already supports four task forces including: the composting task force, the green roof task force, the sustainability task force, and the sustainable building on campus task force. They also host a sustainability dinner, Earth Day events, and Step It Up, an environmental awareness campaign.
With the information gathered at Power Shift 2007, SOPE plans to look into sustainable agriculture. According to Webb, St. Olaf’s food services gets fruits and vegetables from its organic garden for use on campus. SOPE will also be investigating “sustainable investment”.
SOPE hopes to take part in future annual Power Shift conferences and attend other Midwest conferences coming up in April 2008. It is also becoming more involved in Transcampus Energy Action Movement (TEAM) Minnesota, which connects colleges in state and educates students about environmental issues.
“We feel we’ll be able to bring back a lot…but some campuses (like Pomona) brought 30 students, think how much they’ll be bring back to their schools” McGaughey said.
Perhaps, Carleton will send even more representatives to the next Power Shift Conference. For now, SOPE plans to focus on using the knowledge they gathered to continue to support Carleton’s reputation as a leader in environmentally sound campuses.
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