L-S's own Ralph Waldo Arnesen finds joy in environmental activism

Elke Arnesen may have recently earned the title of a queen to the Lampeter-Strasburg school district, but her true colors reflect the natural essence of a hippie -- the green, eco-friendly kind. 

She exhibits her passion for preserving the earth through her involvement with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.
Elke Arnesen (center) visited the nation's capital this summer
to participate in lobbying efforts on behalf of the environment
Arnesen’s immersion in environmental awareness began through the inspiration of her older brother Leif. She recalls him pointing out the ingredients in household items, such as soaps, shampoos, groceries, and their potentially harmful impact on her health. He encouraged her to watch documentaries about the science of agriculture and write nutrition articles for his blog.
“Leif bridged the gap between consumer and producer for me,” she shares. Through several bouts of research, she realized how strongly connected we are as a community and even as individuals to the countless businesses and industries that make up our economy.
About a year ago, Arnesen attended her first CCL meeting with her aunt. Immediately, she describes, the world became considerably more accessible, and involvement was made nearly effortless.
“For the first time, I found a group of people kind of just like me, and they all wanted to do something about this problem,” she says, enamored.
This past summer, Arnesen traveled with CCL to Washington, D.C. on an independent mission to raise environmental awareness. The immense assembly of 800 strangers all advocating for the same cause was awe-inspiring for young Elke. Attending the event enabled her to see CCL in live action for the first time and learn their methods to effective and organized lobbying. She was trained to treat members of congress respectfully by asking and proposing suggestions rather than demanding attention and support.
Although Arnesen’s age group comprised only a small fraction of the congregation (7 out of the 800 to be specific), she argues that global climate change is a young peoples’ argument.
“Powerful words can make things happen,” she stresses, “and it’s so simple to make a phone call and have a conversation with someone about your ideas.”
Arnesen admits that the most challenging part of her work is finding ways to convince others to merely care about climate action. On occasion, her efforts result in feelings of depression when those she speaks with disregard this issue that she grasps as so critical. Nonetheless, she takes pride just in having the idea to consult government officials about global climate change.
Locally, Arnesen serves as the co-founder and president of Lampeter-Strasburg High School’s newly resurrected Environmental Club. She plans to raise schoolwide awareness and further intends to construct an outdoor classroom and/or native plants garden on campus.
“Sure, it’d be great if we planted a few trees, but I don’t really care about that,” she confesses. “It’s more important in the span of things to get people involved.”
In the words of the Environmental Club yearly slogan coined by their enthusiastic leader, now is the time!

Editor's Note: Beginning tomorrow, Elke will author a weekly column for LSNews.org to raise awareness about environmental issues. Every Tuesday, look for a new edition of the column "Our Hot Mess". (BP)

--Jacky Kirchner, LSNews.org Features Editor

Edited: BP

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