New Twist To Kyoto Protests: Conservative Students Join Fray

By Seth Lewis | July 7, 2008 | 8:27pm EDT

( - Craig Rucker and his conservative cohorts had seen plenty of protests by environmentalists and figured there was little they could do to respond.

But after watching Greenpeace recruit more than 100 U.S. college students to rally for the Kyoto climate treaty at a United Nations conference in The Hague last fall, Rucker and others got an idea.

"We thought: Why don't we do the same thing?" said Rucker, executive director of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).

Eight months later, CFACT and others have accomplished an unheard-of feat of activism: a conservative student protest.

Some 35 right-leaning college students from around the country will pass out fliers and stage a peaceful demonstration against the Kyoto treaty at next month's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany.

Before appearing at the July 16-17 conference, the students, who will pay the $1,000-plus tab themselves, will visit Washington for a three-day training hosted by the Leadership Institute.

"We're going to give them the tools to get the message out that not all college students on campuses are extremists," said Rich Moha, national operations director for the institute's campus leadership program.

Call it Protesting 101.

The text? A page from the liberal handbook.

"The left came up with the idea," Rucker said.

Now conservatives are tweaking it to their advantage.

In the Leadership Institute's protesting boot camp, students will learn how to give five-second TV sound bites, design posters and formulate questions for the members of the U.S. delegation they hope to meet with in Europe.

Furthermore, the conservative Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) will prep the students on the science of global warming, an issue at the core of the Kyoto treaty, which requires industrialized nations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Students hope to combat, albeit peacefully, the perception that college students are universally opposed to President George Bush's abandonment of the Kyoto treaty.

"Most of the college students out there on TV are environmental extremists throwing chairs through Starbucks windows," Moha said. "We're going to try to show people that not everyone is an environmental extremist, that there are people with calmer heads."

The prospect, however, that there were conservative students willing to protest -- and do it at their own expense -- had Rucker doubting when the Leadership Institute began sending out feelers to College Republicans and other groups about the European trip.

The response floored him: Hundreds of calls came in, and now there's a waiting list of students wanting to go.

"We could have taken a lot more, but it's a question of logistics," said Rucker, citing the cost of having to charter another bus to get the students around.

Even with just 35 protesters, Rucker - a veteran protester who has led other foreign environmental rallies and who will "quarterback" this Germany trip - expects his group to make a statement. Or, at least, turn a few heads.

"Just the idea that we're sending students - students who paid their own way and oppose the Kyoto treaty - I think will stun a number of people," he said.

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