By Lisa Donchak

It is difficult to take classes at UC Santa Cruz without hearing something about global warming. As one speaker eloquently explained on Saturday at the first annual Conference on Global Climate Change, the Earth “acts like your car in a parking lot. Heat comes in, heat gets trapped, [and] temperatures rise.”

Global Chillers, a student organization dedicated to combating climate change, organized the conference to “raise awareness of climate change,” according to Zack Leeser, a member of the organization.

“If you don’t know much about [climate change], hopefully you’ll go away knowing something new,” Leeser said.

The intention of Global Chillers, according to member Arielle Greenwald, was “to educate our community not only about the physical changes occurring in our environment due to climate change, but more importantly about what all of us can do to help alleviate the pressure of this crisis and how we can implement sustainable behavior in our everyday lives.”

The conference, themed “Choosing to Face the Crisis,” featured three speakers: Alan Richards, a professor at UCSC, John Francis, an environmental activist, and Robert Cormia, who spoke on personal carbon footprints.

Later, after snacking on free organic strawberries and Indian food from the local Jumping Monkey Café, students could participate in breakout groups with different themes, where they could learn about environmental concepts such as composting, biofuels, and green building.

All three speakers focused on the need for long-term solutions. “Is this a serious problem? The answer is ‘yes,’” Richards said in his presentation, titled “The Economics of Climate Change.”

“Carbon emissions and greenhouse gases are not something you only care about this year,” Richards said. “The crisis of climate change is also a crisis of global justice. We are not talking about [making] small changes at the margin.”

John Francis echoed Richards’s sentiments. He said that climate change is an issue of “human rights, civil rights, and economic equity.”

Francis, an environmental activist, lived without a car for 17 years. During that time, in an effort to raise awareness of environmental issues, he also chose not to speak.

He walked across the entire United States and some of South America, attending schools and even silently teaching classes.

“We each have a part in chilling the planet,” he said at the conference, after playing a tune on his banjo.

Despite the low attendance at the event, those who came had the opportunity to learn about climate change from a variety of different perspectives.

“Though the numbers were somewhat low, at the end of the day it was still a success for each person involved,” Greenwald said in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press. “Hopefully, this can become a yearly event that will gain popularity and credibility.”

“I hope something drastic is done [to reverse climate change] in the next 25 years,” Leeser said. “I want my children and my children’s children to live on a green Earth.”