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Drapes of Wrath: Demonstrators hung this message from the police station on the last day of the Kyoto Protocol talks in The Hague.

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Gas Wars

After two weeks of negotiations in The Hague, Netherlands, U.N. representatives were unable to agree on how to implement the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty on greenhouse gas emission. Representatives from more than 100 countries discussed possible strategies for implementation, but the U.S.'s concern for its own economy kept the talks from getting anywhere.

Although the U.S. is already responsible for 25 percent of the world's CO2 emissions, Clinton administration delegates at the conference asked for standards that would weaken U.S. emission restrictions. "They pushed for loopholes that would have allowed the U.S. to continue polluting at its current rate," said Greenpeace Climate campaigner Bill Le Bon, a Santa Cruz resident. Le Bon and four student delegates from UCSC, along with 220 other students from across the country, participated in the negotiations and demonstrated outside the conference center, urging the U.S. to ratify a strong protocol.

The students' message was loud and clear, according to Greenpeace intern Chris Mooney. "The delegates couldn't get though the hallway without being stopped by students pounding them with intelligent questions," Mooney said. "[The students] made it clear that the views of the U.S. delegates weren't the same as the views of the majority of Americans."

Le Bon helped hang a banner from the police station across the street from the conference center with a message for U.S. delegates: "DON'T LET US D(R)OWN." He was also among the Europeans and Americans who surrounded the conference center on the last night of the talks chanting "EU [European Union] Stay Strong!"

The Clinton administration wanted to weaken the protocol in order to gain Senate ratification. Although Clinton ratified the protocol 10 months after it was introduced in 1997, the Senate refused to do so. Le Bon said the Senate's refusal stems from its strong connections with the car, oil, and coal industries. "The Senate is basically in the pocket of the big corporations," said Le Bon.

Perhaps the most vocal lobbying against the protocol came from the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), an organization representing business interests and closely tied to the U.S. auto industry. GCC spokesman Frank Maisano argued in support of U.S. automakers and insisted that most of the responsibility to reduce emissions should fall on developing countries. "This is going to be a costly treaty if it's implemented in the way that it's designed," Maisano told Metro Santa Cruz. He added that although the GCC doesn't support the treaty, it does support what he called the "flexibility mechanisms" proposed by the U.S.

At The Hague, Clinton administration delegates proposed allowing the use of nuclear power and "sinks," forests and plantations that absorb carbon, to reduce the emission restrictions on certain countries. They also called for the option of buying "pollution credit," the right to increase emissions, from countries that have kept their emissions below target levels. When the EU refused the Clinton administration delegates' initial proposal in the second week of the conference, the U.S. offered to make sinks worth less emission credit than originally proposed. But the compromise still would have drastically weakened the treaty, according to Le Bon.

The failure to come to an agreement, however, might mean the protocol won't be ratified for a long time. While the Clinton administration supported the protocol's goals, George W. Bush is against it completely. "If Bush becomes president its going to be a long time before environmental groups can do anything about global warming." Le Bon said.

Dog Gone It

After Disney's 1996 release of 101 Dalmatians, the Humane Society of the United States reported a 25-percent increase in the number of Dalmatians given to animal shelters and rescue groups. No wonder the recent release of 102 Dalmatians has the SPCA and Dalmatian rescue groups up in arms. 'Tis the season to impulse buy, after all. "People don't realize that Dalmatians are not the best breed for children," says Suzi Ezterhas, public affairs coordinator for the Santa Cruz SPCA. "They are high-energy, high-maintenance dogs. People get star-struck by the movie, but once the novelty wears off and people find out what Dalmatians are really like, we are the ones that have to deal with them."

Due to the influx of calls from wanna-be Dalmatian owners, the Dalmatian Club of Northern California's answering machine warns callers that they won't be able to answer inquiries right away. "We're facing the release of Disney's 102 Dalmatians this November," says the message. "Animal groups nationwide hope to avoid another deluge of homeless dogs by encouraging responsible pet ownership."

While profiting from what some claim is a misrepresentation of the spotted canines, Disney has done little to protect them. At the insistence of humane organizations across the country, the mass media giant did agree to run a statement after the film's closing credits. But animal activists complain that by that time the audience will have left the theater. No one from Disney was available for comment.

Narrate This

On Nov. 27, with a chorus of student voices cheering them on from outside Earth and Marine Sciences lecture hall B206, UCSC denied a proposal to end narrative evaluations. The vote, decided overwhelmingly by voice, satisfied the desires of the hundreds of students and faculty members who have been vocal on this issue over the past year.

But if 25 academic senators are unsatisfied with the decision, they can prolong the decision-making process by requesting a mail-in vote (such a request must be made within 21 days after the distribution of the minutes from the meeting). According to Patrick McHugh of Students for Narrative Eval Reform, it has already been a long process: "Last [academic] year, we watched one of the pillars of our educational experience put on the chopping block repeatedly." In May, an Academic Senate meeting to decide the fate of the Narrative Evaluation System (NES) was postponed due to a student lock-out.

Students wanted the opportunity to voice their opinions before the decision was made. At the Nov. 27 meeting, students finally got what they were asking for. Chris Amico of the Campuswide Coalition for Student Power (CCSP) said the Academic Senate worked to include students in the process. According to Amico, this inclusion was an important and unprecedented step toward democracy at UCSC. "Recognizing the student voice gave a real legitimacy to the outcome," Amico noted.

UCSC senior Manuel Schwab agreed that the vote was a victory for students, but he pointed out the fight isn't over yet. "I think from here we need to be really careful to remain vigilant about the implementation of the policy, so that grades don't win the balancing act between grades and narratives," Schwab said. People who want to voice an opinion, can call the senate office at 459.2086.

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From the December 6-13, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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