Three DSU students attend global warming forum

Sometimes the best education a student can get is by leaving the classroom, and heading to New York City. Three Dickinson State University juniors recently had the opportunity to visit the United Nations headquarters and participate in a global f...

Sometimes the best education a student can get is by leaving the classroom, and heading to New York City.

Three Dickinson State University juniors recently had the opportunity to visit the United Nations headquarters and participate in a global forum.

The forum, sponsored by Alliance Toward Harnessing Global Opportunities (ATHGO) International, set its focus on global warming this year.

DSU President Dr. Lee Vickers said he was contacted by the forum, learned the topic and contacted the natural sciences chair to select three bright students to attend.

The Department of Natural Sciences Chair Dr. Michael Hastings said the students were selected for being good at science, responsible, mature and having some interest in the environment.


He said they also submitted papers to the president.

"Since this was a worldwide working workshop, with world couldn't get any bigger or any more important," Hastings said.

After spending three days learning about the dilemma and offering a few solutions, the students agreed that the conference broadened their perspectives.

"I'm definitely more conscious of it," said biology major Derrick Kuntz. "I didn't know how big it was before I went. A lot of it's just having more information to base off of now. You're a little more informed."

Fellow biology majors Tracy Greff and Erin Rice agreed they had heard about the climate change crisis but didn't understand how major and truly global it is.

"Here it's not in your face," Greff said. "You don't see the pollution. You hear about it."

Putting her education to work, Greff questioned whether the crisis is entirely of man's doing.

"Professor (Dr. Corinne) Krauss said the magnetic field is changing and more (ultraviolet) light is getting in," Greff said.


However, she said when she mentioned that at the conference, people emphasized how only humans have contributed to the problem.

Kuntz, however, had no trouble seeing climate change as a consequence of people's actions.

"(Carbon dioxide) has been building as long as we've been around, but the earth had the ability to dissipate some of the excess, but around the time of the industrial's just continued to spike," Kuntz said.

He said another factor is deforestation, because trees absorb the carbon dioxide.

Big city lights

Both Rice and Greff were disappointed they didn't get to talk more about rural concerns during the conference.

"(My group) would say, you state a lot of good points, but we only have three days," Rice said.

She said her group didn't spend a lot of time talking about her ideas, like recycling plants, because most of those had already been implemented in urban populations.


For Greff, the conference attendees didn't even understand the rural mentality.

"They don't make hybrid pick-ups," Greff said. "They think big picture, which is fine because they do much of the pollution, but that isn't going to work here."

Kuntz, however, said rural populations are just as ignorant of the problems big cities face as they are of this region's concerns.

"One thing I mentioned to them (when wrote comments on the forum) was herbicides and pesticides on farms," Greff said.

Think globally

The forum focused on four entities -- the private sector, governments, international institutions and young people.

"The big thing I took from it that opened my eyes to where to look is every country has a concern for a different reason," Kuntz said.

He said developed countries worry about reducing emissions and the effect that would have on the economy; whereas, coastal countries and islands are more likely to fret about melting ice caps.


"It's not going to be a one-shot thing, do this and it stops," Kuntz said. "It's going to be eight or nine things, little pieces in every area. There's not a silver bullet."

Kuntz said the groups, which included ambassadors from approximately 80 countries, talked about allowing each country to reach the same goals in different ways.

"A big thing we were thinking about was a (carbon dioxide) tax," Greff said. "You drive a car and know how much (carbon dioxide) it emits, so tax that amount 5 percent every year."

Greff said the tax would only be for people in developed countries and the money would go toward a fund for developing nations.

Rice, however, thought it would be good for developed countries to mentor developing ones.

"We can teach them what to do before they do it wrong," Rice said.

The students said there was little discussion of alternative energy sources. Greff said the biggest point she got from the forum about it is to use the resources already in the region. North Dakota has wind, so use wind power; California has water, so use hydroelectricity.

Rice said she's starting to realize the U.S. is lagging in what many other countries are already doing to improve the climate, but she believes the country is trying.


"We have bigger issues now," Rice said.

Act locally

Greff said she was happy to be in a group that spent a lot of time talking about how to educate young people about global warming.

Greff recommended students start taking classes about climate change; however, her and Rice were less than thrilled with the idea of putting the idea on social-networking Web site

Rice said her group discussed the idea of talking about the moral issues associated with keeping the planet clean during church events.

"In our own community, preaching global warming, I don't think would work as well," Rice said.

However, she thought it might be a good idea for churches to house recycling bins.

The three DSU students said they're taking more into consideration as they go about their daily lives after attending the forum.


"I don't need all the lights on in my house, and I don't need to take a shower and a bath," Greff said. "There's a lot I could do but probably don't."

Greff and Rice, however, both ride their bikes or walk as often as possible.

"I enjoyed getting to learn about what everyone already knows," Rice said. "I'm telling people about what I learned from the ambassadors from other countries and what they're doing."

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