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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

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Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
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Registered: December 2008
City/Town/Province: Little Rock
Posts: 1
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Essay by: Cody

Two people stood at a podium outside the capital in Little Rock. Behind them, against the brilliant white of Arkansas’ state capitol, hung a banner proclaiming “No New Coal!” Before them, a crowd of 400 energized environmentally-minded people waited to hear the final speakers of the day. I was the speaker on the right. Waiting for the mass of people and posters to subside, I took one final, smiling breath before opening the speech. My message was simple: Arkansas doesn’t need a new coal-fired power plant. My amplified voice, filled with force and conviction, carried down Capitol Avenue in the warm afternoon air. At last, when there was only a slight ring in the speakers, the gravity of my actions hit me in a brief moment of enlightened twilight. There I stood, an eighteen-year-old activist, giving an energizing speech to a crowd of fellow environmentalist, and hopefully, the ears of Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. My friends were screaming with pride and excitement. Strangers were clapping for the heart we displayed. And later that night, all of Arkansas would see the No Coal rally on the nightly news. I was doing more than paying lip service to the theme of change; I was the change. Though brief, my time at that podium was the most exhilarating and life-changing moment I have ever experienced.
The opportunity to speak at that rally didn’t causally happen. Six months prior to that speech at the Capitol, I had taken up the green flag of a group loosely known as “No New Coal.” Seeing strong participation from the environmental community, I wanted to bring the issue to my sphere of influence—energetic and passionate high school students ready for a cause. At Arkansas Governor’s School, a six-week-long summer program for upcoming seniors, I hosted an afternoon seminar about the No New Coal campaign. There, I started an informal petition protesting a proposed coal-fired power plant, specifically from the perspective of Arkansas students. I gathered over two hundred signatures and giving out over one hundred and fifty “No New Coal” T-shirts, I left Governor’s School thoroughly optimistic in my efforts to stop the coal plant. Even though I was outside my receptive learning utopia, I was not finished fighting new coal. I started calling Governor Beebe’s office to arrange a meeting were governor’s school students could formally present our petition and concerns. Thought it took effort and persistence, the meeting was finally confirmed. I would soon have my first hands-on exposure to the overwhelmingly exciting task of lobbying—with the governor of Arkansas.
Two other Governor’s School students and I walked through the capitol’s back steps, heading up a marble staircase to the Governor’s conference room, a room with even more grandiose ornamentation than the capitol itself. Over either mantel hung sentinel a painting of a past governor. Opposite the door were sun-filled, wall-sized windows. Greeted by a professional photographer, the Governor of Arkansas soon followed. We decorously elaborated on our concerns with coal power in Arkansas, noting, with enthusiasm, our unique perspective as the “best and brightest” of our state. The conversation lasted half an hour, during which I became fully aware of what I was doing. I was an upcoming senior, sitting next to the most powerful executive in the state of Arkansas. I was having a formal discussion with the Governor about a real and imminent issue in a room where so much of Arkansas’ history had been shaped. Looking east over the Little Rock skyline, I was lobbying in the state capitol. As an emerging activist, I couldn’t help indulging in the monumental intensity of the moment. Having found my niche, I smiled in contemplative joy.
Over the course of only several months, I have transformed from a moderately-informed teenager into a pivotally-involved activist in Arkansas’ environmental future. I have lobbied the Governor of Arkansas, talked to reporters, seen my name in state-wide newspapers, started a high-school division of the “No New Coal” campaign, helped organize a rally, and stood at a microphone on the capitol steps, letting my voice and message resonate through the streets of Little Rock. Though I am proud of the work I have done and the activist I have become, there are still environmental practices that I have the power to change. My crusade will not stop. I will continue this transformation into an environmental activist, always remembering that “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is the sole creed of any true activist.
Date: December 31, 2008 Views: 11213 File size: 34.8kb, 246.2kb : 1500 x 1125
Hours Volunteered: 75
Volunteers: 32
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 to 18
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