CAMDEN, Maine — At the Camden Conference this weekend, it sometimes seemed as if the audience members were as well-versed in world affairs as the speakers.
Retired CIA officials quizzed policy experts, college professors queried former diplomats.
Then there were the students from Unity College, who were burning up to talk about global warming and other matters of environmental security.
“So many of the previous generations have been procrastinating on these issues,” Matty Zane, 17, of Freedom said Saturday. “We can’t wait as past generations have done. There’s not enough time. If we want to change it, we have to act immediately.”
For 22 years, the conference has allowed experts and interested individuals the chance to share information and concerns on a range of global issues.
This year’s speakers included, among others, Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, who gave the opening address Friday evening on “Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the New Administration”; Denis Lamb, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, speaking on “The Tarnished U.S. Economic Model and the Implications for U.S. Foreign Policies”; former Under Secretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky, on “Aligning our Values and our Interests Through Global Affairs”; and Gareth Evans, president and CEO of International Crisis Group and former foreign minister of Australia, who spoke Sunday on “What the World Wants from an Obama Foreign Policy.”
Younger participants added energy and enthusiasm to this year’s ambitious overall theme of “Global Leadership and the U.S. Role in World Affairs.” The Unity students were joined by many more from the University of Maine, which offered a three-credit course this semester in conjunction with the conference.
Loren Inman of Orono, a senior nursing student at the University of Maine, said she appreciated the change from her usual science classes.
“I particularly enjoyed the discussion about the Middle East,” she said Sunday.
Andrew Johnson, a University of Maine political science major from Bucksport, said he liked the variety of topics addressed, and their complexity.
“Domestic issues are big for students right now,” he said.
Sometimes there was a disconnect between the younger generation and the older one, which put on the conference, Unity students said.
“I think we all feel like a slight minority,” said Jake Deslauriers, 23, of Unity.
The senior parks, recreation and ecotourism major said he really wanted to know what conference panelists thought about how the U.S. could help make the prices of natural resources accurately reflect their true cost — and patiently waited at Sunday morning’s final session to ask them.
Timothy Juliani of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change told him that a public-private partnership would be crucial to capping carbon emissions.
“We are all complicit,” Juliani said. “We all buy power, we all use power, we all have to take a certain amount of responsibility.”
Afterward, Deslauriers expressed his frustration with Juliani.
“He didn’t answer the question at all,” he said.
Unity College President Mitchell Thomashow said that despite the occasional disconnect, it was “really important” for the students to attend, and that he was grateful to the Unity Foundation for its conference funding.
“The students get an interesting perspective on things,” he said.
And, maybe, they helped to prod the conversation in a different direction.
“Here, you bring up environmental concerns and it’s not their top priority,” said Jamie Nemecek, 18, of Brookline, N.H. “We have to keep reminding them of the environmental issues. The sooner you get involved, the sooner you can get started on doing what needs to be done.”
Other conference speakers included Nayan Chanda, Eileen Claussen and John Deutch.