Magazine On-line [spring 2010]
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Transylvania senior attends Copenhagen conference on climate change

LauraLee CrainTransylvania senior Lauralee Crain was one of 18 youth leaders nationwide chosen to represent the Sierra Student Coalition as a delegate to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. She sees the conference as an experience that changed her forever.

“Our role was to represent world youth, American youth, and to remind the world leaders that their decisions today will affect us when they’re gone,” she said. “It was an emotional roller coaster. I was excited, frustrated, built up, and torn down.”

The conference, attended by many of the world’s top leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, was an attempt to forge agreement among industrialized nations to curb emissions of pollutants and help developing nations curtail their greenhouse gas emissions.

At the two-week conference, Crain had the opportunity to attend demonstrations, including a 6K march, attend meetings, and watch negotiation sessions. Crain blogged about her experiences and participated in daily briefings by the U.S. negotiators. She met and discussed topics with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

A highlight of her experience was when she was able to ask Salazar a question about green energy efforts in Appalachia.

“I am from Flemingsburg, Ky., the outer edges of Appalachia,” Crain said, “and I know the poverty in the region. The livelihoods of people from coal country depend on this dirty energy, with few alternatives for employment. A green economy is necessary to the survival of Kentucky, because coal is not a forever resource.”

The anthropology major has been involved in environmental causes since joining the Transylvania Environmental Rights and Responsibilities Alliance (TERRA), but the roots of her activism can be traced to her parents and grandparents, who cultivated a belief in being good stewards of the earth.

She credits Transy graduate Marcie Smith ‘09 with helping her develop into a campus leader. “That put me on the fast track to national and global activism,” she said. “Climate justice means so much to all of us that the stakes are too high to not get involved on the deepest of levels.”

Although they did not come away with a binding agreement, participants of the conference for the first time acknowledged that climate change was a real problem that needed to be addressed.

Crain is hopeful that she and other young people in attendance, including Smith, helped change the way people view climate change and promoted the need for a “bold and just” climate treaty among nations.

“I have had a lot of time to reflect about Copenhagen,” she said. “I feel that I was a legitimate and important part of the negotiations.”

For a link to Crain’s blog from Copenhagen, click here.

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