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VALPARAISO — In tackling environmental issues, should the United States think globally or remain within its borders? Debate teams from Chesterton and Valparaiso high schools took on that issue March 19.

Valparaiso Chain of Lakes Watershed Group sponsored the 10th annual environmental policy debate. This year, Chesterton students supported a pro-global approach, while the Valparaiso team took the con side.

Students on both sides quoted figures and experts to defend their positions, including Grace Whah's statement that the world has already lost 80 percent of its forests. Isolation by this country, the CHS sophomore said, only “leads to progression of the problem.”

Each member of the three-person team gave a seven-minute presentation. Teams alternated comments, and although participants could not debate an opposing position, students could ask for clarifications.

Audience members showed their support by knocking on wood at the Porter County Administration Building.

Valparaiso High School junior Allyson Farris acknowledged the audience, noting that debate competitions typically take place before only a handful of people. Having 30 people in the audience, Farris said, was a “special thrill … something really cool we take seriously.”

Taking an unpopular stance, Valparaiso’s Carson Swallow cited the ineffectiveness of international environmental laws, noting a “dismal record” by the global community.

Chesterton’s Katelyn Balakir countered, saying, “Treaties are setting the tone for solutions,” and adding that environmental issues “don’t stop at political borders.”

CHS teammate Emily Krygoske said international environmental laws are still in their infancy. Even though no one snowflake may take responsibility for an avalanche, Krygoske said, the U.S. must “think and act at an international level.”

Concluding the debate, Valparaiso’s Elliott Yu agreed with CHS that “the world is going to hell.” Disagreement, he said, comes in “where we start to solve the problem.” Domestic issues come first, the VHS senior said, as the U.S. should start small, then focus on deeper problems.

Valpo Chain of Lakes sponsors these debates to entertain and motivate.

“The students laid out their arguments very well,” said Sue Swarner, Chain of Lakes secretary. “You could see how much work they put into their arguments.”

Dakota McCoy, a Chesterton coach, thought both teams did very well. “Valpo had a rough job, taking the con argument, but they took a more passionate approach and did the smartest thing they could.”

“Our goal was to make it a good debate from a difficult perspective,” VHS coach Trevor Wells said, “and the audience was (receptive) to some of our arguments.”

Swallow understood the difficult argument her team faced. “It’s not all black and white. There are gray areas,” she said. “We wanted to show how to make the world better, to find better ways.”

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