'We made a positive impact': Port Townsend students return from climate-change trek to D.C.
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Laura Tucker, who chaperoned the Students for Sustainability trip to Washington, D.C., rolls up the club banner with the assistance of senior Eamonn Clarke, teacher Lois Sherwood and chaperone Hank Walker. The students returned from the 11-day trip Monday afternoon.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A cross country trip undertaken by a dozen Port Townsend High School seniors meant to raise awareness about climate change was a success, according to the students .

The young lobbyists, all members of the Students for Sustainability, arrived at the high school Monday afternoon.

“We made a positive impact on the people who will create change,” said Eamonn Clarke, who videotaped the proceedings for a future film project.

“We met with people whose efforts mesh with what we are trying to get across.”

During four days in Washington, D.C., the students met with members of Congress and their staffs, and also held meetings at the federal Department of Environmental Quality and with Clare Sierawski, the State Department's senior envoy for climate change.

Clarke said it was gratifying to meet with congressional staff but thought the Department of Environmental Quality and State Department meetings would have more impact because “they will be able to make the most difference in the short term because they can take direct action without having to wait for congressional approval.”

The initial plan was to meet with students along the train route from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to spread the word, but this didn't succeed because the trip took place during spring break.

Club president Ewan Shortess said that it was difficult to get students to come out when school was out of session, and they could not make the trip at another time because they would miss their own classes.

“We could have planned some things better, but the trip was a real success,” Shortess said.

The group met with their own representatives, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, on Tuesday, April 1, as well as with 6th Congressional District Rep. Derek Kilmer — a Democrat from Gig Harbor whose district includes the North Olympic Peninsula — and other legislative staff members.

All three meetings were curtailed because of legislative business, the meeting with Cantwell was moved from her office to the Capitol itself due to a vote.

“We got to be actual 'lobbyists' because we met her in the lobby of the Capitol,” Clarke said.

Shortess said the meetings with staff were as effective as those with the legislators themselves.

“They rely on us to tell them how to act,” he said.

“If we can get enough people to tell them what we believe they will listen and take action, because they really want to stay on office.”

The students began the trip March 27, taking a Jefferson Transit bus with connections to Seattle.

For the trip home, they were picked up in Seattle by a Port Townsend School District bus and driven directly to the high school.

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

Last modified: April 07. 2014 6:11PM
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