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ISU students feel optimistic after climate change lobby trip to Washington, DC

Three women in business attire standing in front of the U.S. Capitol building
Matthew Hartman
From left, Illinois State University students Kyleigh Weir, Shyia Whiting and Rebecca Blood took part in a climate change lobby conference in Washington, D.C., this month.

Three Illinois State University students went to Washington, D.C., to speak with members of Congress about ways to lessen the effects of climate change.

Over 1,000 volunteers and 181 students from middle school to college and coming from across the country took part in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference. Two days were dedicated to learning all about the values of the climate change conference. That was followed by lobby day. Hundreds of meetings were scheduled with members and staffers of the U.S. House and Senate.

Rebecca Blood, an ISU senior from Aurora studying political science and anthropology, participated in three meetings with staffers for Illinois representatives.

“Overall, it was a really great experience,” Blood said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas. “It was kind of nerve-wracking to be in such an official place, and it was my first time lobbying, so for my first time lobbying to be in D.C., that was kind of scary, but it was a very good experience.”

Talks with these staffers included, though were not limited to, details within the Prove It Act. The bill would direct the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct and report results of a study that would show greenhouse gas emissions of certain American-made products and then compare that to products produced outside the country. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Coons, a Democrat from Delaware. The bill, which was introduced last year, is still awaiting a hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.

Despite being a Democrat-sponsored bill, Republicans were also leaving their doors open to students, according to Shyia Whiting, a junior studying political science and legal studies from the Chicago suburb of Markham.

“It went to show how this isn’t a divided issue,” said Whiting. “This is something that will affect everyone.”

A diverse group of individuals standing in front of a desk with multiple flags, including several U.S. flags, behind them
Matthew Hartman
A gathering of students (left to right) including Andra Pligavko from Oakland, Calif., Ben Nagy of Chicago, Kyleigh Weir, Rebecca Blood, and Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteer Matt Hartman of Bloomington met with Legislative Director Greg Warren from office of U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (third from left) during their trip to Washington, D.C.

Bipartisanship is one of the values the climate change lobby wanted to convey to students during their visit. It left an impression on Blood, to the point that she believes it could lead to more fruitful climate discussions back on ISU’s campus.

“I think that would really resonate with our campus to show that, you know, we can talk about what's going on with the climate crisis in a way that appeals to both sides, and we can come together and have solutions that way,” said Blood.

Whiting also left Washington feeling optimistic. She said many of the staffers she met were excited that young people were lobbying on behalf of their districts. She added the event showed her that there are others willing to make an effort to protect the climate.

“We're not feeling as hopeless as we were before, because there's actually people out there, and we're not alone,” said Whiting.

ISU student Kyleigh Weir, a legal studies major, also attended the conference.

Braden Fogerson is a newscaster and correspondent at WGLT.