After Power Shift Summit, students to continue push for climate bill’s passage

| Contributing Reporter

Washington University students continued to demand effective clean energy legislation following last week’s Power Shift by attending and organizing events promoting the 350 International Day of Climate Action.

Considered to be the largest environmental effort in history, the event took place last weekend in over 180 countries and on all continents. The goal of the event was to pressure political leaders attending the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to take stronger stances on slowing global warming. Activists in the movement around the world, including those in St. Louis, photographed their rallies and intend to send the pictures to Copenhagen.

Green Action President Peter Murrey, a junior, said he believes the global response shows that people from all cultures “want climate legislation to happen.” Murrey said that “leaders have to realize that if they don’t recognize that, they will find themselves out of a job very quickly.”

The number 350 represents the maximum amount of carbon dioxide in parts per million (PPM) that, according to scientists, can be in the atmosphere without triggering the damaging consequences of climate change. Currently, carbon dioxide levels are at 387 PPM in the atmosphere.

Supporters of clean energy legislation want to see these carbon dioxide levels decline and insist that, as senior Guillaume Auffret put it, more work be done to promote sustainable energy.

“We are talking about wind energy, solar energy [and] geothermic energy,” Auffret said.

Auffret hopes that the U.S. government will adopt “a sense of urgency” regarding climate change and said he believes that European and Asian countries are surpassing the United States on this global issue.

“We need a strong U.S. presence there [in Copenhagen] if we are able to effect any change,” Murrey said. “We’re one of the leaders of the world, and for us to be lagging on this issue is disgusting.”

Some Third World countries are bringing innovative sustainability plans to Copenhagen. Indonesia, for example, plans to harness geothermic energy from the water vapor emitted by volcanoes.

Locally, Wash. U. students attended 350’s Action @ the Arch Rally with about 200 people. Mayor Francis Slay encouraged activists there, stating that he along with 60 other mayors urged the White House to complement economic stimulus funding with green initiatives.

Sophomore Adam Hasz was especially inspired by the mayor’s support, and he emphasized the “immediacy of this issue in terms of local action and how we can make a difference right now.”

Also a member of Green Action, Hasz hopes to see Missouri lawmakers take action to improve the state’s energy efficiency rating, which currently stands at 45th in the nation.

While sophomore Matthew Blum, treasurer of Green Action, also found the rally inspiring, he hopes that in the future, supporters will be less homogenous. Blum said he believes that although the movement is international, “here, in St. Louis, it needs to diversify.”

After Action @ the Arch, the University campus hosted a 350 Sustainability Fair, the last event for CS40’s Ecolympics, a weeklong challenge for residential colleges to prove how green they are. Held on the Swamp, the event invited students to participate in a clothing swap and hear the Nuclear Percussion Ensemble, which played with instruments made from recycled materials.

Junior Anna Li said she believes “the clothing swap will be an annual event in the future,” with more campus involvement.

Sophomore Brandon Lucius, CS40’s sustainability chair, said he’d like to see Ecolympics become more competitive in the future, with more student participation.

“By no means is Power Shift or the 350 campaign or any of these environmental movements regarding climate change coming to an end,” Hasz said. “At Wash. U., the movement will actually continue to grow in the coming months, up until Copenhagen, and will hopefully continue to grow as the years go by.”