MARQUETTE - Jen VanDragt strongly believes that climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. That's why the Northern Michigan University environmental conservation student is currently in Washington, D.C.
VanDragt and 30 other NMU students are attending Power Shift 2009 - a national youth conference on global climate change.
"The conference is at the University of Baltimore, but on Monday we're lobbying in D.C.," said NMU student Erica Lensink, who also attended the first conference in November 2007. "They're expecting 10,000 people."
— Erica Lensink
— Jen VanDragt
Nearly 400 Michigan students are expected to travel to D.C. to help promote Power Shift '09 goals, including pushing "the new administration and Congress to pass bold, comprehensive energy and climate legislation."
Other goals include demanding laws that would dramatically help reduce carbon emissions, create green jobs and assist the nation to move toward 100 percent clean energy.
"Because this climate change is an international problem, it really is going to form the basis for economic problems," VanDragt said. "It's really going to cause a geographic dislocation for an enormous amount of people."
Besides attending workshops on green topics and climate change, each group of students will lobby legislators on one particular subject related to climate change.
Lensink said the goal is to speak to legislators and get their attention. She also hopes President Barack Obama, who has been invited, will make an appearance.
"I honestly wouldn't be surprised if that were to happen," Lensink said.
The conference is open to any students, regardless of their major.
"It's not just environmental science students," Lensink said. "It's political science, marketing, history and sciences majors. It goes to show how climate change really affects and bonds everyone."
The NMU students received funding for transportation and food donations from the Marquette Food Co-op for the trip.
Lodging is provided for free by a D.C. Unitarian Church for some of the students.
Lensink and VanDragt plan to bring their experiences back to campus, spreading their messages on climate change.
"It's a great way to get inspired," Lensink said. "Up here at Northern, you're kind of isolated. When you got so many enthusiasts, it's a really cool feeling."
During Powershift 2007, students asked Congress to create 50 million new jobs in environmentally friendly green industries and to take action to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Another request was a call for an end to the production of new coal.
For more details on the conference, go to www.powershift09.org.