Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2010 - (Page 40)
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Building a Global Movement
Youth worldwide are advocating sustainable development policies |
BY KYLE GRACEY ’06
IMAGINE A CIRCUS. Now, imagine the biggest scientific conference you can think of. Put them together. It is late October 2009, and I’m on a conference call with about 100 United States youth who will attend the United Nations climate change negotiations for the first time, to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. I have the difficult task of explaining in a few words the frenzy and utter strangeness I expect they’ll experience participating in this United Nations summit. It is my third climate negotiation and my fifth UN meeting, and one more step on a long path promoting sustainability, a path that mostly started at Rensselaer. By day, I am a master of science student in the public policy and geophysical sciences departments at the University of Chicago. Not only am I building on my solid RPI education, I doubt I would be successful here without it. My thesis is trying to understand the longterm job creation potential, if any, of investments in renewable energy electricity production in the United States. As part of the Sustainability Committee, we secured funding for a campus bike sharing program that would employ and mentor at-risk south side Chicago youth to maintain the bikes. By night, I am in my second year as the chair for SustainUS. We are a small, national, sustainable development policy organization that empowers young scientists, engineers, policy wonks, lawyers, and activists to participate in interna-
are in Mexico. We’ll be tional sustainability negothere. tiations. We help them While I have had the to understand and adchance to work with vocate for sustainable some incredible youth development policies on the international that we think will achieve stage, some who will no social, economic, and doubt be sustainability environmental progress. leaders for life, I have to We tracked and analyzed acknowledge the imthe policies in the negoportant role of youth tiations and compared not in Copenhagen. In them to what climate scilaboratories and startence tells us should hapups and town councils, pen if we don’t cut our young people are incugreenhouse gas pollution bating themselves for sharply. We also worked the challenges ahead. to help coordinate and As much as we need train the unprecedented more youth in the 300 U.S. and 1,200 interstreets and more youth national youth (reprevoices at these internasenting more than 100 tional talks, we need countries) who particiNearly 300 United States youth attended the United Nations summit smart, purposeful, unpated in the Copenon climate change, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. flinching young people hagen negotiations. to seize these problems in science, senior climate negotiators and the At RPI, helping to found our in business, in politics, and in so perseverance of youth; the enorEngineers for a Sustainable World many other fields and not let go mity of the international process chapter and rebuild EcoLogic until they are solved. To truly and the understated importance of taught me organizing and financial make this a global sustainability local solutions. They remind me of management skills I use every day movement, we need the skills and the interdisciplinary nature of susin SustainUS, and they taught me perspectives of far more young tainability itself. the value of environmental protalent than we already have. I bet Despite our hard work and that tection. Through the Community some of them are reading this of many others, the negotiations Service Committee and Alpha Phi right now. ended mostly in failure, in that we Omega, I got the chance to interdid not get a legally binding treaty act with people struggling to find Kyle Gracey ’06 is with countries agreeing to cut their work, get a good education, and chair of SustainUS: pollution enough to avoid costly clean up their town. I learned about U.S. Youth for Susand deadly climate tipping points the social and economic impacts tainable Developand help the U.S. and others make that global and national decisions ment. He is a Harris the transition to cleaner, safer, can have, and the importance of Fellow and master’s degree student longer-lasting sources of energy. public service. at the University of Chicago. At However, the financial commitAt the UN meetings, I work Rensselaer he was president of Ecoments and modest pollution cuts between these worlds—social and Logic and a founding member of the agreed to by many nations provide physical sciences; smart, objective Engineers for a Sustainable World a solid foundation for success in the science and equally smart, impasChapter. future. This year, the negotiations sioned advocacy; the wisdom of
60 RENSSELAER/SPRING 2010
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2010
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2010
Making a Difference
A Decade of Transformation
One Last Thing
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2010