BAR HARBOR, Maine — Most college students who travel to Cancun, Mexico, are there for one reason: spring break.
But a dozen students from College of the Atlantic who are embarking on a trip to the famed city on the Yucatan Peninsula probably won’t see much beach time.
The contingent from the small, specialized college on Mount Desert Island will leave for Mexico today to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Climate change is a problem that permeates all levels of society,” said Anjali Appadurai of Vancouver, Canada. “I want to get involved to see where I fit in.”
Added Ayla Yandow of St. George, Vt. “It’s something I feel inside me. It’s my passion.”
Among the 12 students from COA who have been studying climate change issues extensively, nine countries are represented: the United States, Canada, Germany, India, Peru, Haiti, Grenada, St. Lucia and Mexico. COA students will stay in Cancun through Dec. 10.
The conference will feature delegations from a number of countries and will aim to broker an agreement on mandatory reductions in global warming gases. The conference also expects to focus on reducing energy use and continuing to explore renewable energy sources. A current international agreement on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.
The site of the conference is appropriate. The Yucatan Peninsula, which encloses the Gulf of Mexico, is an area that has experienced the effects of climate change through rising sea levels and beach erosion.
Doreen Stabinsky, a COA faculty member, said the convention gives students a hands-on look at international politics.
“It’s a way to viscerally experience what happens during negotiations — something you can’t get in books,” she said.
This is the sixth consecutive year that COA has sent students to international climate change discussions. Neil Oculi, a senior from St. Lucia and a member of his nation’s delegation, and Juan Carlos Soriano, a senior from Peru, are attending for the second time.
“Youth are not just outside observers,” noted Ken Cline, a COA faculty member. “They are going to live with the results of these meetings.”