Student Power

Gina Cancelliere, with additional reporting by Dana Bauer.
May 01, 2000

Last November, CAUSE student Kate Darby attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Netherlands with other students, scientists, lobbyists, heads of state, and presidents of countries with environmental concerns. (Al Gore and Bill Clinton would have attended had it not been for the on-going presidential election.) The conference goal was to negotiate a final draft of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets greenhouse gas emission limits on countries in an effort to curb climate change.

3 men, 1 woman standing in front of chain-linked fence. Grand Canyon in background

Kate Darby, second from the right, stands with fellow students Eric Noble and Garrett Fitzgerald and instructor Derek Elsworth at the Grand Canyon.

"The whole experience was amazing," says Darby. "This was the first time a huge group of students was allowed into the conference." The 225 American students attending the conference flew to the Netherlands courtesy of Ozone Action and Greenpeace (the two groups recently merged). Greenpeace prepped the students with a crash course in climate change politics, legal briefings, media confrontations, and the Protocol. Unfortunately, Darby couldn't attend the weekend workshop, but she researched the topics and held her own at the conference.

"I snuck into a formal dinner and talked to nuclear lobbyists. They had no idea I was a student and against nuclear energy," says Darby. One of the students' goals was to pressure the United States to adopt a fair treaty to mitigate climate change. Darby thinks that the United States government is more concerned with technology and keeping ahead of other countries than with the environment.

The majority of the students at the convention were against the United States' stance in the negotiations. To prove their dissatisfaction with their country, half of the students fasted on Thanksgiving Day. Darby was one of them. "It wasn't easy knowing that back home my family was enjoying a good meal, but if we don't do something now, there may never be another Thanksgiving meal," Darby says emotionally. The Thanksgiving fast wasn't the only way students expressed their opinions—marches and media events took place, and a few of the students were arrested. "We all had a lot of energy because we're so passionate about climate change. It consumed us, but we loved it" she adds.

Shortly after the conference ended, Darby graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. In January, she started a six-month internship at the Washington D.C. office of the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). She is now working with NREL researchers on two projects: one encompassing solar energy and the other creating "High Performance Schools."

Last Updated May 01, 2000