The Feedback is in!

At the end of the WNY Youth Climate Action Summit we conducted an anonymous survey to see what we could improve and to get a pulse of student sentiment. 100% of the students would recommend the summit to another youth. Here is what they have to say in response to the prompt, “Tell us in a sentence how this summit has or has not inspired/empowered you to action in your own school or community.”

“I enjoyed learning about city planing and it has taught me a lot of how to make that greener.”

“The first workshop truly opened my eyes to how real climate change was. Seeing how fast carbon dioxide can affect the temperature made me think of things that let out waste product of carbon dioxide and how much of an impacts it makes on climate change. “

“This has encouraged me to continue climate advocacy because I can see that there are others that care about our world as much as I do.”

“This summit has inspired/empowered me to take action in my community by making it clear that if we don’t take a stand now while we can still help climate change than we can destroy our planet.”

“I am inspired to talk to my school administration about simple actions we can take within our school.”

“This summit inspired me by exposing me to other students/groups efforts and their successes, reminding me why I am passionate to make a change and by making progress seem attainable.”

“The Citizen Lobbying and Advocacy helped me to understand how to have a conversation with a legislature and i really want to share the details with my community so they can know the tactics to talk with the legislatures.”

“The summit is always a way that sparks the fire about climate change in a plethora of people. The action plan is a perfect way to keep that fire lit and makes the students and teachers alike to continue in their path to preserve the world that we live in.”

“This summit has helped me gain some insight into the advocacy needed to put my ideas into action. Now, I have a clear sight as to where I want to go with my composting plan and encouraging others to get involved too.”

“This has educated me a lot about climate change and how we can take action. Basically everything I was taught brought ideas about improving my school community and finding ways to educate other people about climate change and making it interesting.”

“My goal by coming here today was to change the idea that climate change is a political issue. I am a conservative but I feel passionate about climate change. This summit empowered me to communicate to others that this is not a battle between republican and democrats it is a fight for our future. “

“Before this summit I was kind of clueless on what to do about climate change. It was always something I knew about but didn’t know what to do to help. Now I realize the many ways big and small that I can do to impact and have a voice in what happens to our world.”

“I have been inspired to propose new policies to my school district regarding energy use and sustainable materials consumption after attending the ‘Creating a Climate Resolution’ workshop.”

A great success!

Well, judging from informal feedback from the many students I and others spoke to, the 3rd Annual WNY Youth Climate Action Summit, held yesterday at Buffalo State College, was an improvement in all regards. As organizers we strive to make an event that will keep the active local youth invigorated and that seems new. In our third year, this was a challenge – the same speakers and workshops just wouldn’t do anymore. We needed more.

We responded by keeping the same overall structure, three workshops interspersed with speakers, a tour, earth-friendly meals, and culminating with open-spaced meetings into an action plan session, with a capstone cruise on Miss Buffalo. While the structure was the same, we reached out to a wide range of new partners for our workshops and were able to offer 15 unique offerings throughout the day. This enabled the youth a greater opportunity to customize their learning and activities throughout the day towards their own interests and community needs.

Another exciting change, and one that has been quite homegrown, has been an increasing role for youth. Especially returning youth! By sharing what successful teams have done over the past two years there was a greater sense of concrete accomplishment surrounding the action planning portion than ever before.

This evolution, combined with a focus on high quality presenters gave great results. A big Thank-You to David Arquette from Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, Dr. Stephen Vermette and Elsa Mengitsu from the Zero Hour Movement, for their inspiring messages. I think we can see that the presenters themselves found the summit valuable as they all stayed for nearly the duration of the long day.

I, personally, cannot wait to see what these youth accomplish in the coming months. Their energy inspires me. Despite being exhausted the next day, I have been working on this post, going through photos, and mentally evaluating the day. I’m guessing all who attended have done something similar.

We are launching nominations, while students strike.

On February 15th, 2019, thousands of students walked out of classrooms throughout Europe to protest humanity’s role in climate change and the pathetic little that us adults have been doing about it. This movement is nominally “led,” insomuch as there is a leader, by Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old Swedish girl who has steadfastly refused to accept the status quo, and the strength and determination of this refusal has created a continental wide movement that may spill across across the Atlantic.

Greta has been working on this for years, but the catalyst for the strike was the apocalyptic climate report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last October. This report demonstrably shows that warming is occurring due to human activity, and the effects of climate change are already upon us. That warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius will be environmentally, socially and economically devastating, and that we have 12 (now 11) years to alter this course. This report has also spurred on the popularity of the Green New Deal, a framework of U.S. politicians to form legislation within to achieve the goals and avoid dangers laid out by the IPCC.

With all this in mind, we begin collecting nominations for our own WNY Youth Climate Summit. This is our third year of collecting nominations, and the intellectual energies surrounding these issues seem more present and vital than they ever have. Our nominations are due on March 29th. But even before that, the next student strike will occur on March 15, 2019. Will youth push adults into actions they have so far avoided? It seems they may, much to their credit.

Remember, you are never too young (or old) to speak truth to power. See you on June 1st!

Still working despite the Shutdown

I got an alert on my phone last night as I went to bed that this government shutdown was now the longest in U.S. history – surpassing another lengthy one in 2013. As the shutdown has dragged along, I have read discouraging reports of various pieces of The Commons that are being abandoned. Science projects going unfunded means research opportunities are being missed, never to be recaptured. The FDA has minimized the number of food inspections, this despite the massive recall of romaine lettuce this past fall. The EPA has been forced to curtail its monitoring and enforcement departments. This results in the dual issues of not being able to recognize when pollution is taking place, and then even when it is recognized, that it is not being punished as legality (and morality) requires.

All of these headlines begin to outline in detail the insidious effects on the common good that erodes our society during a shutdown, but I think the events at the National Parks have served as the color and contrast of this portrait. Overflowing outhouses, piles of garbage, fresh-cut ATV trails, fires, illegal camping and even cutting down of Joshua Trees have served as a shocking view of what happens when things are left to themselves. My parents have a trip to Joshua Tree national park planned for early February, but the events there have them rethinking their plans. Will it be safe? Will it be clean? I encouraged them to go – this is a National resource to be cherished and admired, and responsible visitors will help set a respectful tone.

Despite these dark tones, there is shining light, that gives hope not only to our national parks, but to our movement for a livable climate future. Volunteers have been piling up clean outhouses and empty garbage. Rangers have been working for free to help the protect ancient living beings.  And across the country youth have been pushing for climate action on multiple fronts. Here at WNY Climate Action, we have been busily planning for our Climate Conversations on February 9th (more information is on this site!), and laying the groundwork for our third annual WNY Youth Climate Summit – the largest and most inclusive to date.

We have been creating connections to organizations throughout New York, the United States and even the world. We recently connected with a group in Zimbabwe. This is clearly going to be a movement that begins at the ground level, and grows upwards. Don’t all movements work this way? Even though the government has stalled, and pieces of our common birthright are being neglected, signs of hope abound if you know what to look for. For everyone who is working – keep it up and we will see you on February 9th at the Burchfield-Penney for Climate Conversations.

 

Launch!

We are excited to be sending out nominations today! Over 120 students have been nominated by teachers throughout Western New York to attend the Summit on June 3rd. Their teachers had marvelous things to say about these bright and motivated students. I can almost feel the potential energy building behind this summit, and the potential for connections among the future leaders of Western New York.

Preserving ecosystems for the future

As I read this article in the New York Times earlier this week, I couldn’t help be become upset. My parents visited the Great Barrier Reef a few years back  and had a fantastic time in glass-bottomed boats and snorkeling. While I had seen documentaries and photos of the reef, and heard it was the only living structure visible from outer space, hearing about it first hand from a loved one was a different experience and wetted my appetite to one see the reef. News like this makes me wonder if I will ever see the reef as my parencoral bleachingts saw it only a few years ago. If the reef does manage to recover to some degree will my children? Will my grandchildren? One cannot help but feel more pessimistic with each extension of generational imagination.

News like this is serious, and dire. This summit is attempting to ameliorate damages such as this by raising awareness of climate-based issues and the various ways climate change harms living communities around the earth.

Large Sections of Australia_s Great Reef Are Now Dead, Scientists Find – The New York Times