Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 15, 2013

Local students to go to D.C. climate rally

TRAVERSE CITY — A Kalkaska seventh grader who plans to attend a climate change rally in Washington, D.C. has only known about Keystone XL tar sands pipeline for a few weeks.

Yet it's become a hot-button topic for Hunter Webb, who says it's all he can talk about.

The Forward on Climate Rally is sponsored by 350.org, Sierra Club and other environmental groups, and is an attempt to urge President Barack Obama to reject Keystone XL.

The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline by TransCanada would carry 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Obama, in this week's State of the Union address, didn't make direct mention of Keystone XL. He did call for more action to combat climate change, and said if Congress won't move to protect future generations, he will direct his cabinet to take steps to reduce pollution and speed the transition to sustainable energy sources.

The country can make strides on the issue while driving economic growth, he said, and his administration "will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits."

Secretary of State John Kerry last week said a State Department review of the pipeline is under way and a decision is expected to be made soon, according to the Associated Press.

Webb asserts he's researched both sides of the Keystone XL argument: the project's potential for thousands of American jobs and adversely, the potential impact on the climate and environment. The latter makes Webb irate.

"All I am doing is trying to get the word out and help to stop it," he said, citing the effect of pollution on animals.

The Michigan Land Use Institute and Sustainable TC organized a group of 56 people to caravan to the National Mall, 25 of whom are students from Traverse City, Kalkaska, Glen Lake and Manistee.

There was no twisting of arms to get kids to join the trip, which is partly funded by Sierra Club and other sponsorships, said Jim Lively, program director of the Michigan Land Use Institute. The students, some from school-based environment groups, jumped at the opportunity, fully aware it wouldn't be a "cushy vacation."

"I think kids don't always know what they can do," Lively said. "This a good way to do something kind of fun but also be a part of something bigger."

MLUI encourages alternative solutions in the carbon-based economy. The organization's stance on the $7 billion pipeline project is that those dollars could fund the country's future of sustainable energy, Lively said.

Chase Latka, 15, a freshman at Traverse City West Senior High School, said "we need change now" in regard to the United States' use of fossil fuels. Student participation in the rally is a testament that kids care plenty about the environment, she said.

"We're just trying to help ourselves because we're the ones who are going to have to take care of this earth," Latka said.

Nate Shivlie, a trip chaperone and SEEDS after school program coordinator at Kalkaska Middle School, said climate change will affect generations to come, a topic of which young people are especially sensitive.

"They haven't been corrupted by the greed, the money, the bullying, the power struggle. There is an innocence, but that also brings about great courage," Shivlie said.

Follow as the local protesters live blog their experience on YouTube: youtube.com/user/MLUIclimateKids; Twitter: @forwardTC2DC; and at mlui.org/climatekids.

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