Four UR students and one UR alumnus from Grassroots joined thousands of other young people who converged on the nation’s capital last weekend for Power Shift 2007, the first national conference for young people committed to curbing global climate shift, promoting sustainability and establishing a green economy. Nearly 5,500 students registered for the conference, but estimates put attendance at more than 6,000.

“A huge part of this conference, for me, was making it clear that global warming isn’t an environmental issue,” sophomore Maria Strangas said. “It’s a social issue that is affecting and will continue to affect people everywhere.”

The goals of the conference were to show the commitment of young people to reducing their footprints on the planet, to bring young Americans with diverse backgrounds together for a common cause and to put pressure on lawmakers to pass legislation that would make the future greener and more prosperous.

“Having so many students with different backgrounds caring about the issue for different reasons was very powerful,” Strangas said.

Politically, the goal of the conference was to push Congress to adopt the 1Sky program, which calls for the creation of a Clean Job Energy Corps. This would create five million green jobs by 2015, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, place a moratorium on the construction of new coal power plants and create new transportation options.

Over the weekend, students attended panels and workshops at the University of Maryland at College Park that were designed to help students educate their peers on their campuses about climate change and related issues. On Monday, attendees headed to Capitol Hill to meet with senators, representatives and other government officials to talk to them about climate issues and measures that they could take to abate them while strengthening the economy.

The UR group, which included Strangas, sophomores Carolina Clemente and Micaela Bagley, junior Laney Widener and Nils Klinkenboerg ’06, had the opportunity to meet with the environmental aide for New York Senator Charles Schumer, while other students got to meet New York Senator Hillary Clinton’s environmental aide to discuss possibilities for dealing with climate shift and starting the green economy.

Strangas said that what she learned at the conference would help her and the rest of Grassroots in raising awareness of the extent of climate shift’s impact here at UR.

“One of the main things that I got from attending Power Shift was the idea that this really isn’t about the environment,” Strangas said. “It’s about social justice more than anything, and it directly relates to everyone’s life.”

Fleming is a member of the class of 2010.

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