My father has been a union electrician for 30 years in the metro-Detroit area. He has been a committed worker and supporter of his union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) his entire career. He is also a strong supporter of American made goods and jobs. But he had been unemployed for almost two years now because of the recession. He repeatably has said to me that the job market will never again be the same in Michigan and that he is worried that steady work will be difficult to find in the next few years. Through a new comprehensive climate and clean energy bill, we can revive the United States, and Michigan’s manufacturing base around this new low carbon, clean energy economy.
At the end of Expedition Copenhagen, we wrote this op-ed on behalf Expedition Copenhagen urging the U.S. Senate to Act – it matters to my Dad, to Michigan, to the U.S., and the world:
Greetings from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen!
We are the Midwestern youth delegates of Expedition Copenhagen, a partnership between Will Steger Foundation (WSF) and Stonyfield Farm. WSF is a non-profit organization committed to creating local and global climate change solutions through advocacy, education, and outreach. Will Steger, a lifelong arctic explorer, has been an eyewitness to the rapid changes in our climate. He led our delegation of twelve young leaders to Copenhagen to promote Midwestern climate change solutions at the international negotiations.
While at the conference, delegates have taken on multiple roles. We attended plenary sessions to observe actual negotiations, conducted press conferences and led educational presentations. We formed working collaborations with our peers from around the world, including China, Canada, Kenya, Denmark, India, Latin America and more. Additionally, we filmed our observations and uploaded high-quality news stories to the web. We wrote blogs and tweets to present our perspective to followers back home. While our days were packed with activities from pre-dawn hours into the night, our mission remains to present the Midwest voice to those here in Copenhagen and, in turn, to be the voice of Copenhagen back in our Midwestern communities.
The Midwest is critical to the success or failure of the conference. We contribute 4-5% of total global warming pollutants, but with our natural resources, our educated workforce, and our agriculture and manufacturing capabilities, we could be a much larger part of the solution. America’s heartland has much to gain economically by tackling climate change, because a clean energy economy will be the largest business opportunity of all time. We have a very strong engineering and technology base and an ability to develop innovative clean-tech jobs, renew our economy and put millions of Midwesterners back to work while reducing our reliance on foreign oil. As breadbasket to the world, we have energy solutions on our farms too, such as wind power, carbon offsets, and the next generation of biofuels. Lastly, many of those in our generation are just now graduating from Midwestern universities with degrees that will be essential to restoring economic prosperity to our communities while solving one of the world’s most daunting challenges.
The whole world looked to the U.S. to help negotiate a comprehensive climate agreement here. Similarly, the whole world is watching the United States Senate to see that it enacts President Obama’s pledges here in Copenhagen. Midwest U.S. Senators are the critical players in passing a comprehensive jobs and energy bill that is at a standstill on the Senate floor. Our Senators comprise some of the most important votes that will determine the fate of the Earth. They have the opportunity to lead the transition to secure, sustainable societies all around the world, with good jobs and the economic engine powerful enough to solve the problem.
Call your U.S. Senate offices today. The message is this: the whole world is waiting on you. Enact a clean energy jobs bill now.
Expedition Copenhagen Delegates:
Reed Aronow, St. Paul, MN
Liana Balinski-Baker, Chicago, IL
Aurora Conley, Bad River, WI
Megan Constans, Fargo, ND
Maia Dedrick, St. Paul, MN
Chris Detjen, Detroit, MI
Jamie Horter, Bristol, SD
Holly Jones, Mt. Pleasant, IA
Sarah Mullkoff, Lansing, MI
Chalie Nevarez, Milwaukee, WI
Danielle Ostafinski, Grand Rapids, MI
Jamie Racine, Racine, WI