Students meet with lawmakers

Various politicians met with local students to discuss environmental issues and solutions.

Highland Park eighth-graders Shante Stewart, Paige Lee and Afton Delgaelo met with their state senator on Monday to make sure their voices – young as they may be – were heard.

These three were joined by more than 150 other students across Minnesota for Clean Energy Lobby Day at the state Capitol.

“We want to make sure (our representatives) take our advice and not just our parents,’ ” Delgaelo said.

Leah Vandassor, the Highland Park students’ teacher, said it was important the students’ learning wasn’t limited to the classroom, but beyond, at the Capitol.

“Some kids got a lot out of this,” she said. “Some didn’t get much out of it, but hopefully there will be some long-term effects.”

Jessy Moger, a first-year political science student and member of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group’s sustainability task force, said the event was to get students engaged in the political process.

She said that legislators exist to hear their constituents’ wishes, and students have just as strong a voice as anyone else, including the legislators themselves.

Roughly a dozen students from the University, Hamline University and Minneapolis South High School met with a representative for Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents most University students.

Hot environmental topics at the Capitol Monday included the Minnesota Clean Car Act, the cap-and-trade policies, and a biofuels bill to use perennial grasses rather than current food sources.

The students were briefed on environmental issues at a training session before meeting with representatives.

Students spent much of the meeting asking what they could do on an individual level to make a difference in the passing of environmental legislature.

Ryan Kennedy, a political science first-year, met with Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, and Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers.

Kennedy tackled the complicated cap-and-trade policies – where carbon emissions are auctioned off for institutions – with Peppin, who said she was concerned that such policies should be on a national level.

“I hope (Peppin) can see the importance of clean energy,” he said.

Youth forum with Pawlenty

Later in the day, several hundred students held a forum with Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the University of St. Thomas to discuss solutions for global climate change.

Joshua Russell, along with seven other students, co-wrote Minnesota’s New Energy Generation: The Youth Vision for a Sustainable Society, a platform for the forum.

“We can solve global warming,” the statement read. “We have everything we need: the resources, the ideas and the people.”

Russell, an applied economics junior, said the participating students wanted to pressure Pawlenty to avoid coal- and nuclear-powered energy, focusing instead on solar and wind energy.

Environmental activist Will Steger introduced Pawlenty at the forum.

Steger said he’s seen first-hand the effects global climate change has had during his explorations in the arctic.

“2007 was a record year for sea ice loss,” he said.

“Decision makers do not appreciate the gravity of the situation,” Steger said. “Another coal plant built in Minnesota will negate all the progress we’ve made.”

Pawlenty noted that “next-generation coal plants” – where carbon is sequestered rather than emitted – are a solution, even though next-generation coal plants are not being permitted right now.

Pawlenty said there are three groups of thought that legislators fall into regarding public policy: One states, “That will never work.” The second says, “That will cost too much.” And the third voices, “I was for that all along.”

Pawlenty added that renewable energy is more than reducing greenhouse gases, but important for national and economic security.

“Whether you’re a capitalist or not a capitalist, this is an economic opportunity,” he said, addressing the emergence of “green-collared” workers.

Russell said he and the other students calculated Minnesota could create 50,000 jobs over the next 10 years with the use of renewable energy sources.

Russell said while Pawlenty is aiding renewable energy, he’s not funding it enough.

“He’s not taking on the issues the way he should be,” Russell said.

Pawlenty said a state cannot solve this problem.

“It’s not Minnesota warming,” he said. “It’s global warming.”