Most people go to Cancun for beer and beach. Christine Dellert went to change the world. She left the Mexican beach resort last month feeling good, but not from that vacation glow. The St. Petersburg native had pressed international negotiators and policymakers for a solution to climate change, providing them dark observations about the Earth's future. When it comes to fighting for the environment, Dellert doesn't mess around — and she doesn't stop.
"This goes hand in hand with my value system. Taking care of the environment is a moral issue," said Dellert, who graduated from St. Petersburg High School's International Baccalaureate program in 2002. "It's about compassion, respecting others and the place you live in. You wouldn't go into someone's house, mess it up and then leave."
During her 12-day stay, she participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference with 1,000 other young people from more than 75 countries.
Dellert is an active volunteer with SustainUS, a national, volunteer-based program that encourages young people to create a sustainable world through grass-roots efforts. SustainUS sent Dellert to the U.N. conference with 19 other delegates. She was the only Floridian to attend.
"The combination of Christine's media skills, the timeliness of her work and her unfailingly positive attitude is really what set her apart from other applicants," said Kyle Gracey, director of SustainUS.
Dellert is a 2006 journalism graduate of the University of Central Florida. She was a summer intern at the St. Petersburg Times and a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, but she found her true calling in environmental activism.
"She sees the way climate change impacts regular people. We are making a mess and others are hurting from it," Gracey said. "That basic moral angle is what drives Christine."
Dellert works in UCF's communications office, but for her career she plans to work in communications for an environmental organization or get a doctorate in environmental politics, which would enable her to become a professor or researcher at an institution.
During the conference, Dellert was prepared, passionate.
She worked with U.S. and Chinese youth on a cultural exchange project to build mutual trust and show leaders that they can find common ground.
She organized news conferences with officials like Oscar Gustavo Cárdenas Monroy, the secretary of the environment of the state of Mexico.
She helped in a presentation to delegates, negotiators and observers describing what would happen to Earth if sea levels rise dramatically.
She stressed that if humankind allows the average global temperature to rise more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, entire communities will be destroyed.
"Climate change is going to impact everyone regardless of race, class or culture," Dellert said later. "This is not a faraway threat. Everyone will be affected."
She didn't sunbathe. She didn't snorkel. She didn't plan her wedding.
But next year, Dellert will marry Lee Mullon, 28, an engineer, on an old farm an hour north of Orlando.
She eventually wants to have children — no more than one or two — with whom she can share her love for the environment.
Sabrina Rocco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8862.