Mar 25, 2009 - Claremont, Calif. -
HMC students who attended included Rob Best ’10, Annika Eberle ’09, Ozzie Gooen ’12, Alicyn Henkhaus ’09, My Ho ’12, Claire O’Hanlon ’09, Rachel Nishimura ’09, Autumn Petros-Good ’09, Matthew Phillips ’11, Emily Putnam ’12 and Seanna Vine ’09. The trip was funded by the HMC Center for Environmental Studies, Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College, Engineers for a Sustainable World/Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions (ESW/MOSS) and the Jacobs Entrepreneurial Fund.
The summit offered a number of speakers, including members of Congress and other activists, as well as workshops on everything from running a grassroots organization to international climate policy-making. Participants also had the opportunity to attend a green career fair and a lobbying session on Capitol Hill with their representatives. The students, activists and others braved a snow storm and held a rally on Capitol Hill on Monday.
Senior engineering major Claire O’Hanlon, whose interests are in the area of energy and environmental public policy, was responsible for organizing the trip. She attended sessions on a variety of issues, including nuclear energy and fair trade policy. The HMC students attended as many different panel discussions and breakout sessions as possible, then shared what they learned during meals, other breaks and at an ESW/MOSS meeting on campus when they returned.
“On Sunday, they had regional breakout sessions so you could meet other students from your area and talk with them about action you could take when you returned to campus," O’Hanlon recalled. “They also had Lobby Day training sessions so that on Monday we would be prepared to lobby our representatives. We learned that you only get about eight minutes with your representative or their aides.”
O’Hanlon, whose concentration is environmental studies, is taking a class this spring at Pomona College called “Farm and Gardens,” and spends time working at The Farm, a cooperative vegetable garden on campus there. Among the ideas she wants to promote at HMC is the composting of the food waste that is generated during meal preparation in Hoch-Shanahan Dining Hall.
Having backgrounds in engineering, science and mathematics, the Mudd students found their perspective different from many of the others who attended the summit. “It’s hard to have nuanced discussions with people who don’t have a scientific background,” O’Hanlon said. “They’re coming at a problem purely from a citizen action point of view, while we’re asking, ‘What is the best option to pursue?’”
O’Hanlon numbers among the students who oppose the development of the land that HMC recently purchased in the area designated as the Bernard Field Station on Foothill Blvd. “The property that Mudd has is among the most interesting and ecologically sensitive in the field area,” she said. She works with local elementary school children in studying the biology of the vernal pools in the area.
“A lot of Mudd students have this anti-protest attitude,” O’Hanlon said, “They’re really wary of students who want to protest everything and don’t see a lot of value in working for social change. But it’s the way a lot of things get done, in the United States especially. Scientists who are well-versed in policy and are willing to get involved can affect change.
“Too often the public doesn’t understand the science and it’s our job to make that happen. Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is an example of this. It really ignited this third wave of awareness about our impact on the environment.”
O’Hanlon also had the opportunity to meet much-admired author Paul Loeb, whose latest book is “The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear.”
Power Shift '09 was organized by the Energy Action Coalition (EAC). In 2005, EAC launched the Campus Climate Challenge to help students press for commitments to clean energy and climate neutrality at college campuses, an effort that has so far secured commitments from more than 550 campuses. EAC brought 6,000 young leaders together for the first Power Shift summit in November 2007.
EAC executive director Jessy Tolkan joined four other young leaders in testifying at a congressional briefing held Monday, March 1, by Congressman Ed Markey’s Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence.
“There will not be a more important hearing in Congress this year,” Chairman Markey declared after listening to the testimony on the young panelists. “You are all the leaders of this clean energy revolution.”
Power Shift '09
Energy Action Coalition