After CFACT “Eco Summit,” students fired up to bring facts to campus

CFACT President Craig Rucker discusses how CFACT views humanity as a source of limitless potential to solving environmental problems.

CFACT’s top student activists from around the nation eagerly flocked to Port Charlotte, Florida for the annual “Eco Summit” student retreat over their winter break. While the Collegians gathered to escape the cold winter for a few days in the “Sunshine State,” they returned fired up and ready to shed light on the faulty arguments presented by their peers and professors at their campuses.
16 student leaders from Minnesota, Louisiana, Virginia, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia heard from policy experts such as James Taylor of the Heartland Institute, CFACT president Craig Rucker, hunting advocate and media expert Gabriella Hoffman, and Captain Travis Thompson, a fisherman’s guide with extensive knowledge on Florida’s water quality.

Hunting advocate Gabriella Hoffman gives her speech “Hunting is Conservation” to those in attendance.

In addition, attendees visited a manatee refuge center made possible by warm water coming from a nearby coal and natural gas fired power plant, and got some fun bonding time in the sun at Venice Beach.
“As someone who goes to a very progressive university, hearing the facts behind the scientific argument about climate change and what our side – the facts that we have that backs up our argument, is going to be really useful when I take it back to campus,” explained Marcus Maldonado of Tulane University in New Orleans. 
“I really liked the water quality talk, I thought it was super interesting,” said Abby Draiss, a junior at the Ohio State University on Captain Travis Thompson’s discussion on how to solve issues like Red Tide and invasive species to Florida’s ecosystem.

Left: Collegians look at manatees in the distance at the refuge. Right: A close-up shot of a manatee’s “hump” in the water.

“I found [James Taylor’s] talk very interesting,” said Sarah Knickerbocker, a law student at Syracuse University. “He has a lot of knowledge about hydraulic fracturing, in particular how it pertains to New York and upstate New York.”
As newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez try to appeal to millenials by advocating for policies such as the “Green New Deal,” CFACT’s efforts on college campuses are more important than ever, and are seeing incredible impact. 

Collegians listen to James Taylor’s talk on real climate science and free market energy.

“I’m very excited to take back what I learned to campus,” said Maggie Anders, a junior at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
David Bucarey, a sophomore at George Mason  University in northern Virginia said: “One of my favorite topics was about…how hunting was actually helping keep extinction away from animals when the media makes it seem all the time like ‘oh hunting is bad and you’re gonna kill everything’ when in reality its a very good tool to use to conserve animals.” According to Hoffman, hunters and anglers have contributed billions of funding towards conservation efforts by purchasing permits. 

Tampa Electric’s discharge water has created an area far warmer, and more comfortable, for manatees seeking shelter during the winter months.

After discussing important issues such as free market environmentalism, climate change, fossil fuels versus wind and solar, hunting, and smarter approaches to Florida’s water with red tide and invasive species, CFACT visited the Manatee Viewing Center managed by Tampa Electric. This refuge is a popular spot for manatees to congregate in winter because the discharge water from the coal and natural gas fired power plant is warmer than the natural water in and around Tampa. It is a perfect example of how meeting the needs of humanity can also help protect species and the environment.
“We wanted to bring the students here because it takes the theories we’ve been discussing of how technology and development helps the environment and puts it in a real practical example,” said Craig Rucker, CFACT president and co-founder. “A lot of the students were impressed that this was an animal refuge managed by a private company, and one that uses fossil fuels at that!”

Visitors to Tampa Electric’s manatee refuge interact with rays at the science center on site.

“We got to connect with a lot of members of different chapters, which was a really rewarding experience,” remarked University of Minnesota chapter member Michael Geiger. “It was good to get a, sort of a national perspective on the issues relating to climate and in different parts of the country. It will definitely color our viewpoints moving forward.”
The Eco Summit is more than just a retreat. The Summit is intended to be a training boot camp to empower Collegians and motivate them to keep up the good fight at our nation’s colleges and universities. Based off the comments and reactions of the attendees, the Eco Summit certainly hit its target.

Students attempt to cut open a coconut to enjoy after a day of lectures and workshops.

“I approached [James Taylor] afterwards and discussed the possibility of bringing him to Ohio State, giving a talk on global warming,” said James Smith, a junior. Kenny Horsley, a senior at Ohio State, and president of the CFACT chapter there, echoed James’ thoughts. “It would definitely be great to have him debate some professors or someone from the other side.”

James Taylor, senior environmental fellow for the Heartland Institute, discusses why America’s energy policy needs to be data and price focused.

“West Virginia has a long storied history with coal,” explained Nathan Burdette, a sophomore at West Virginia University. “And the regulations have sort of burdened the industry in the State. I also thought Travis Thompson gave a good speech about water quality issues here in Florida. Being in West Virginia, we don’t get to hear about that a lot, so I thought it was neat to get a perspective on that.”
The students learned a lot, but still made some time for fun and relaxation in getting to know fellow liberty-minded Collegians in attendance. After a long day of speakers and workshops, students took pleasure in cutting their own coconuts to drink from at the pool party, and got a first hand experience in enjoying Florida’s beautiful water by swimming in the Gulf off of Venice Beach.

Students from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette and Tulane University pose for a Louisiana group picture.

“Making the real connections with these students and showing them how energy and free markets help both humanity and nature is why I do what I do,” said Graham Beduze, CFACT’s Associate Director of Collegians. “The things the students learned here and the conversation I and all my colleagues had with them are going to stick with them for the rest of their lives. We’re helping build a generation of leaders who will fight for freedom and sound science on issues relating to the environment and energy policy.”