This weekend I, as well as several other Environmental Science Club members and other WSU students had the chance to attend a Climate Change summit in Seattle, WA. It was a great experience and the work the coordinators did to put this on was really appreciated. The summit was put on by OurClimate and specifically by one of their sophomore interns, Sabrina Melendez, and other coordinators that assisted them. The summit began the night before with an email attaching an itinerary for the following day. The day was packed full of workshops, group activities, ice breakers, as well as provided food.
First thing on the agenda after a light breakfast and icebreaker challenge/debrief was a workshop hosted by Derek Hoshiko. This was titled “Climate Conversations” however the activity involved breaking into groups and identifying 5-8 personal attributes that define us individually, and choosing the 3 most important attributes of those previously chosen and 3 that we believe others notice first about us. We had a little less than 5 minutes to have a conversation with our groups. Mr. Hoshiko went about telling his story and struggles as a 4th generation Japanese-American and how he came to start speaking about self-identifying. Although this was a valuable exercise and included important information, many students (including myself) felt like this didn’t have much to do with climate change, although they tried to tie it in with asking how an attribute one might have could be affected by climate (in social aspects not environmental).
The second workshop was titled “Climate Science” with Judy Twedt and four other graduate students from the University of Washington specializing in various subjects related to climate change. This to me (and it seemed to most of the attendees) was the most attention-getting part of the whole summit and it was about an hour. They approached three key questions in preparation on how to respond when approached by climate change skeptics; 1) How do we know the earth’s climate is changing? 2) How do we know we’re causing the change? 3) Are clean energy solutions realistic? Each specialist answered each question in detail. For those interested, some key facts they said should be brought up in response to these questions are:
(numbers correspond to questions previously mentioned)
1) We can measure it! We have increased approximately 1.6 degrees since 1950. Things such as glaciers completely disappearing and loss of arctic sea ice. Climate is different than weather. It is the trends of weather and other characteristics we see over a LONG period of time. Normal trends that have been witnessed before 500 thousand years ago have drastically changed since 1950.
2) There is scientific data that shows the trend of times when CO2 increases are correlated with colonization of different areas over time periods.
3) Yes! Although clean energy on the individual scale can be pretty expensive, it is the complete opposite with mass production. Even energy companies know this and are switching over to clean energy. Coal and other fossil fuels are becoming harder to mine because it takes a lot more labor and energy and it is becoming harder to get to. This raises prices. Clean energy is comparable. On land, it would increase the amount of jobs needed for generation of the energy compared to fossil fuels, and again, it is cheaper!
Workshops 3-5 were led by Estefania Narvaez and Stina Janssen. I believe these were supposed to be focused more the policy side of climate change, but it seemed to get a little side tracked. It was very valuable and discussed extremely important points, however, we started talking about oppression, what oppression means, and what goes into oppression of a minority. We talked about a case study with an immigrant farmer who died in Bellingham recently because the manager did not let him take enough breaks and he got extreme dehydration. A connection was made to climate change at the last minute. This connection discussed how the dehydration was because the sun was very hot and caused hard working conditions, but the focus of this story was on the wrong doing of the manager. Then there was a group activity about identifying the institutions that keep powerful leaders in power (even if they are doing wrong). Eventually we moved to a skit activity demonstrating one of the various ways to make a change: Move the money, Change the rules, Build the democracy, and Build the new. Then we learned what a good one-on-one meeting with a potential ally/advocate might look like when discussing a policy you want them to support, and then established how to run a good meeting.
At the end, they presented about a policy that is being pushed to pass right now in order to inform attendees and in hopes to gain some volunteers to do some policy work. The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is developing this policy. If passed, it would put a fee on carbon emissions for the top emitters in Washington and use the money collected to invest in clean energy, transportation, creating long term family wage jobs with high labor standards, promoting forestry, providing assistance to lower income families, assuring that those families have access to affordable clean energy, ensuring that communities hit hardest by climate change and pollution receive a fair share of investments, and transitioning for people losing jobs involved in fossil fuel energy (more info about this can be found at www.jobscleanenergywa.com).
Overall, this was a good experience and at the end we all received certification in Climate Leadership. I do think it is something that was a little scattered and did not relate directly to climate change or climate change policy, but it was all important information!
~Written by Hilary Zuniga~