Port Townsend students begin their cross-country journey for climate change awareness
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Students Peri Muellner, left, and Micah Evalt board the bus on Thursday to Poulsbo that represents the first leg of their trip to Washington, D.C. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Students for Sustainability, a group of Port Townsend High School seniors who hope to raise consciousness about global warming, began the first leg of their cross-country lobbying trip with a lively sendoff Thursday morning.

“I’m still stressed. I have the feeling there is something that I haven’t, done but I don’t know what it is,” said Eamonn Clarke, the group’s videographer.

“But in all honesty, I think we’ve covered everything really well.”

About 60 people gathered at the Haines Street Park and Ride for the sendoff, where the students took a Jefferson Transit bus to Poulsbo, which then transferred to Bainbridge Island and the ferry to Seattle.

The students will be accompanied by County Commissioner Phil Johnson up to the point they board a train in Seattle.

“This is a great venture and will be extremely significant,” Johnson said.

“I’m hopeful this will make people more aware of the consequences of climate change.”

Eleven students are making the train trip, during which they will use each of the 55 stops to pick up petitions, make short speeches and meet with local media.

The petitions gathered will be delivered to legislators in Washington, D.C.

Clarke will fly to Washington, D.C., because he is participating in the Washington State Moot Court finals this weekend.

During the trip, the students will prepare for the legislative meetings and polish the necessary 60-second “elevator speech” needed to quickly state their purpose during legislative meetings.

Meetings are confirmed with Pennsylvania Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, as well as with some of the Washington state delegation: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Whidbey Island; U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, whose 6th Congressional District includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

Ewan Shortess rattled off a draft just before he got on the bus Thursday, adding that the students will polish the speech on the train.

“We are here to talk about a problem that a lot of people aren’t focusing on, and that problem is climate change,” he said.

“What makes this so difficult is that a lot of companies have investments in fossil fuels in the ground, which they can dig up and sell.

“Another problem is that it happens slowly, so the impacts aren’t readily visible. With the [Snohomish County] mudslide, you can see the effects right away, but it’s different with climate change.

“This is the issue of our generation, and needs to be addressed by everyone from President Obama to the citizens living in Fargo, North Dakota, and we need to act now if we are to change people’s behavior.”

Some of the legislative meetings will include the entire student group while others will have smaller gatherings.

Three chaperones are making the trip: teacher’s aide Laura Tucker, her husband, Hank Walker, and teacher Lois Sherwood, on her third student trip to the nation’s capital.

“My expectation is these students are going to grow,” Sherwood said.

“I’ve looked at those who I’ve taken on past trips and have seen how they’ve moved into adult life and do totally amazing things,” she said.

“A trip like this opens doors in your brain about what the future can bring.”

The students arrive in Washington, D.C., on Monday and will spend four days there before returning on April 7.

To stay connected with the students during their trip, visit www.facebook.com/sfspths.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 27. 2014 6:27PM
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