This week, students from four Christian colleges went to the White House for a briefing with officials from the EPA and the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. Their message: Climate change and clean air is a driver of their votes.
At the gathering, students joined young environmental advocates, NGOs, and faith leaders in unveiling a giant quilted topographic map of the United States, sewn together from recycled clothes donated from around the country. Many also donned shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Green the Golden Rule."
"You can't remove the topsoil or destroy the watershed and love your neighbor. It doesn't compute," said Tyler Amy, coordinator of Renewal, a youth-minded sustainability-focused group that brought students together for the day of advocacy.
"If [Congress] is not listening to the EPA, maybe they'll listen to us," said Amy. "That's the beauty of our democracy. Young people can make a difference."
Officials agreed. "We all care about stewardship," said Drew Elons, Director of Outreach and Public Relations for the EPA. "Destructive environmental practices cause massive public health concerns, and health affects education and the economy – for many of us, these things translate into moral issues."
Students unfurl a giant, quilted topographic map.
But some students also had tough questions for the government. Tess Beckwith, a senior at Eastern College in Philadelphia, pointedly asked the National Manager of EnergySTAR whether the White House itself met qualifications to be EnergySTAR certified, to which he had no answer. "I just want change to be genuine," said Beckwith later. "If we're going to fix things we have to start at home, and [the White House] is a major building in the US."
The question reflected the sincerity of the group gathered, which collectively voiced support for the EPA and the need to make climate change a campaign issue in 2012.