Conference brings together student climate activists

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The Center for Ecological Living and Learning (CELL), a Maine-based organization, is sailing from the top of Maine down the East Coast this semester and stopping in cities along the way to host a workshop called “Climate Action Now.” Their boat is equipped with solar panels and runs on waste vegetable oil, therefore it is one hundred percent sustainable.

On September 19, CELL hosted an event in Portland, ME and worked with the Colby Alliance for Renewable Energy (CARE) and Maine Students for Climate Justice (MSCJ) to create a series of lectures and workshops. The mission of the workshop is to teach      students about climate change and climate justice, how to communicate about the issues, and how to create an effective strategy and campaign on their own college campuses. “They want to spread these small, locally based campaigns and…be a super organization or super structure for these campaigns to continue,” EcoRep Ester Topolarova ’17 said.

Topolarova attended Climate Action Now with 2015 Oak Human Rights Fellow Jodi Koberinski, who was “interested in getting involved in the larger Maine networks,” Topolarova said. “We had around 20 to 30 people there including people from Maine College of Art, University of Maine, Bates, Bowdoin, and a few sustainability coordinators from different parts of Maine,” she added.

A large portion of the event was dedicated to learning about how to communicate the issue to an audience of students. “We learned how to pitch to people that we have never seen before….We practiced a lot of skills. In the afternoon, we discussed strategies and how students can put pressure on the administration and how to reach out to the student body,” Topolarova said.

Topolarova, who volunteered with Environment Maine, an organization that advocates for the preservation of Maine’s environment, this past summer, discussed why it has become so important to learn how to communicate these issues: “I think climate change has become a very political issue, and it can alienate a lot of people….I did a lot of petitioning this summer while I was helping with Environment Maine, and I met so many climate deniers….We’re at colleges, and I think sometimes we don’t realize that people outside [of college campuses] don’t always think the way we think.”

Overall, meeting other activists in the area was the highlight for Topolarova, however she wishes the workshops had been more interactive and provided more materials to bring back to campus and share with peers. “Hearing about all the other students stories about what they are doing…is really great and really inspiring. That’s something I always take back,” she said.

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