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Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Lauren Willard, left, and Tracy Lewis share a laugh Monday as they join hundreds of other middle-school students in spelling out a message in the snow at Park City about global warming. The students spelled out the message "Step it up. Go carbon neutral" for activist and aerial artist John Quigley as part of a Sundance Film Festival documentary.

PARK CITY — Hundreds of Park City middle-school students sent a message to the world on Monday: "Step it up. Go carbon neutral."

By sitting and lying in the snow, the students used their bodies to spell out the giant global-warming message along with an eco-friendly bear-paw print for photographers and cameramen. The message was organized by activist and aerial artist John Quigley, who has created dozens of such body messages around the world.

"Are you ready to make history today?" Quigley shouted to the group of excited students. "It is going to send a powerful message about climate change, and we're asking our leaders to step it up. We want to save the snow in Park City."

Quigley and numerous other people featured in the Sundance Film Festival documentary "Everything's Cool" gathered at Treasure Mountain Middle School to talk to the students and be part of the art piece. Filmmakers Daniel Gold and Judith Helfand had followed Quigley for a similar aerial shot in 2005 in the town of Iqaluit, Canada, and they followed him with cameras Monday morning to Park City.

For the Canadian statement, thousands of arctic dwellers spelled the message "Arctic warning" around an Inuit drummer and the word "Listen" in the Inuit language.

The Park City message, Quigley said, is the response to that Inuit message. Students first spelled out "Step it up" and an Inuit phrase that means "I heard you, and I'm going to respond." They then morphed "Step it up" into "Go carbon neutral."

Sheila Watts-Cloutier, who has gained international attention for her message on global warming as a human-rights violation, is from that Canadian village and was one of the many people featured in the documentary who attended the Park City event. She is in town for the Sundance Film Festival and spoke to the Park City students before they took part in the giant artwork.

"In the Arctic, because our hunting culture depends on it so much being cold, we are having huge challenges" because of global warming, she said. "We are counting on you as American young children to do this and be part of the global solution."

The documentary "Everything's Cool" began in Park City, said Gold, who co-directed the film with Helfand. In 2003, the two attended the film festival, where Gold met a New Zealander who was in Park City for the winter season to make snow for the ski resorts. Unfortunately, 2003 was a warm winter.

"We wanted to show the effects of global warming on everyday people," Gold said as he crouched in the snow with the students to help form the "S" in "Step it up."

The New Zealander "was pretty depressed because he wasn't making enough money to pay the rent because he couldn't make the snow," Gold said. "It was January and not getting colder than 26 degrees."

"Everything's Cool" is the second documentary about global warming to be screened at Sundance in the past two years. Last year's "An Inconvenient Truth" followed former Vice President Al Gore on his campaign to make global warming a recognized worldwide problem.

A different perspective on the issue is presented in "Everything's Cool." Oftentimes comedic, the documentary follows many of the people who have made global warming a main focus of their lives.

They include Ross Gelbspan, a former journalist who is the author of "The Heat Is On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth's Threatened Climate."

"I was early on reluctant to talk to youth about global warming because it's heavy stuff," he said. But he said he realized that American kids especially need to be informed because the United States is one of the only nations that is not actively focusing on reducing carbon emissions.

"Even if we sat in the dark and rode bicycles, that wouldn't do it," said Gelbspan. "It has to be a global effort."

The group behind the national "Step It Up" campaign is led by Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature." The group aims to spur changes to help cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Events and rallies have been organized across the nation, include the Park City aerial photo.

"It's incumbent on us to be aware of this," said Park City Mayor Dana Williams, who attended the event. "It has the potential to seriously affect our town and what goes on."

E-mail: astowell@desnews.com