ECO2school students biking to school.

Small actions make a difference: ECO2school’s 2017-2018 annual report

“How do we know we are making a difference?”

Students often ask us this question after ECO2school events on their school campuses. It’s a fair inquiry. We encourage all of our students to think critically about how their actions impact themselves, their communities, and the planet.

Students often cite full parking lots, long lines of idling cars during drop-off and pick-up times, and the difficulty in pitching alternative transportation options to their classmates. Looking at our transportation habits here in California can be particularly daunting considering the recently released report from the California Air Resources Board that shows increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

But there was a break in the CO2 clouds for some of our Sonoma County public high schools. After completing the calculations for our annual report, students from Analy, Casa Grande, El Molino, Montgomery, Petaluma, Piner, RUP, and Windsor combined to save 25 tons of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere. This breaks down to a 0.6-ton weekly CO2 reduction per school due mainly to a six percent decrease in drop-offs and a three percent rise in carpooling.

Although these reductions sound small, it is important to point out to our county’s high school students: You are making a difference! ECO2school reached 10,000 students last year, 7,000 of which participated in one behavior change action. Just think what we could do if those 10,000 students walked or biked to school just once a week for the entire school year. We’re talking about savings in the millions of pounds!

Students keep up the strong work, it starts with you!

Please read our 2017-2018 Annual Report for other highlights and stay tuned to find out what our Sonoma County high school transportation teams are doing this year!

 

Welcome: Amanda Begley joins the Center with transportation chops

Hi! My name is Amanda Begley, and I recently joined The Climate Center as an ECO2school Program Coordinator.

How satisfying and rewarding it is to land a job aligning with your lifelong values and passions!  These values have a direct connection to how I was raised by my environmentally-conscious father. I grew up in a household where the phrase, “transportation hierarchy” was a common utterance. What is “transportation hierarchy,” you ask? This is my dad’s philosophy used to guide our decision making on which mode of transport to use getting from A to B. First choice is walking or biking (“weather and fitness permitting,” Dad would explain), then public transit, then carpool, and the last choice being a car (electric or fuel efficient, of course).  Importantly, beyond just considering your “transportation hierarchy,” the lessons of the why reinforced itself over the years. My father did not shy away from teaching us about the realities of a changing climate and how our actions contributed to the impacts.

As I write this, the brutal effects of a warming climate are evident in the daily headlines, such as this recent New York Times article: “Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes,” “cows are dying of thirst in Switzerland, fires gobbling up timber in Sweden, the majestic Dachstein glacier is melting in Austria.”  Not to mention the blood-red sunrise this morning colored by smoke as fires burn the surrounding counties (currently the largest wildfire in the state’s history). When it comes to reducing those heat-trapping gases, like CO2, cutting our vehicle-miles traveled is a crucial strategy towards necessary reductions. This is especially true in Sonoma County where around 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation.

Admittedly these trends are scary, but there is something we can do.  We can consider our “transportation hierarchy,” and we can reduce our vehicle miles traveled. There is another way.  Understanding that there is another way is empowering, and quite frankly, exciting! I am looking forward to the opportunity to engage with youth leaders to promote long-term personal and community action for the environment. Now let’s get to work!

 

Casa Grande High School’s transportation trifecta

Kevin Anderson is an ECO2school Program Coordinator for The Climate Center.

This year eight Sonoma County public high schools participated in our annual ECO2school Challenge, a friendly two-week competition that encourages students to choose sustainable modes of travel to and from school. Casa Grande High School deserves to be recognized for hitting the transportation trifecta! Casa had the highest percentage of student participation, the most CO2 saved overall, and the most CO2 saved from active transportation (biking, walking, skating).

With Americans driving more than ever and the number of American students walking and biking to school declining, the importance of Casa Grande students’ successes cannot be understated. Casa Grande had forty-five percent of their 1700 students participate which means a whopping 773 students walked, biked or carpooled. Overall, they prevented six tons of carbon dioxide from being released into our atmosphere in just two weeks. Can you imagine if we did the Challenge for an entire year? Casa Grande students saved 2.7 tons of CO2 from active transportation alone. How’s that for sustainable transportation?!

The statistics are only part of the story. Committed students with tangible goals, encouragement from teachers, and warm support from the administration were the key reasons for Casa’s success. Let’s take a look at Casa’s rock star leadership team:

Committed Students: A small, but dedicated group of students participated in ECO2school’s Youth Leadership Development Training. This helped them start and grow an environmental club that met weekly throughout the year; key members included President Madison, Marley, Jocelyn, Celeste, Kimberly, Grace, Ben, Sam, Isabelle, Paige, Ally, Denix, and Olivia. They used a SMART Goals template to make plans that were specific, attainable, and measurable. This included organizing three events throughout the year and collecting pre-event and post-event data to determine the impact. SMART goals supported the group to get things done. That led the group to feeling good about their accomplishments and inspired to do even more next year.

Casa Grande’s Environmental Club at their bicycle blender event during the ECO2school Challenge with teacher champion, Todd Adams.

Casa Grande’s Environmental Club at their bicycle blender event during the ECO2school Challenge with teacher champion, Todd Adams.

Encouragement from Teachers: Casa Grande had not one, but two teacher champions who offered support to the environmental club. Simply put, this was huge. Mr. Todd Adams and Ms. Melissa Witte, both Casa Grande science teachers, actively recruited members, offered countless hours of their own time, and provided a deep well of environmental knowledge. Their passion for nature was contagious and proved invaluable for both students and fellow teachers. They enlisted nearly the entire Casa Grande science department, a total of 42 classes, to participate in the Challenge. Ms. Witte regularly rides her bicycle to and from school. During the challenge, she parked her bike in the back of her classroom as a shining example to all students that she is more than willing to ‘walk the talk.’

Ms. Witte getting ready for a Small-Bike Fast-Race during the ECO2school Challenge and Casa Grande’s Green Week

Supportive Administration: Credit also has to be given to Casa Grande’s supportive administrative and office staff. The Principal Eric Backman, Vice Principal Dan Ostermann, and front office secretary Paulina Franco, always welcomed us during each and every visit to campus, made it easy to work with the students, and streamlined the process for implementing the various transportation-based activities throughout the year. The support of the administration was absolutely pivotal. It provided a springboard for students and teachers to innovate and put their personal stamp on the events. Students felt like they could make a difference. This is exactly what we shoot for as educators, mentors, and leaders. Casa Grande students, teachers, administration: we salute you for a job well done and look forward to rolling this momentum into next year!

Principal Eric Backman at the Environmental Club’s first event Walki for Guayaki which rewarded students with Yerba Mate drinks donated by Sebastopol-based Guayaki.

The results are In! Show us the numbers!

We live in the age of fit-bits and health apps that give us instant feedback on step-counts and calories. So why not carbon footprints? How about connecting the dots between self-care, the health of our planet and the power of collective, measurable climate actions? At ECO2school, we closely consider the impact of our transportation choices on climate change and enable students to notice it through a similar kind of feedback loop. Students like that walking and biking is directly under their control, can improve their health positively, and is an excellent carbon-free behavior choice.

A high school student can save about 100 pounds of CO2 on average by choosing to walk, bike, or skateboard to school once a week throughout the school year. This year student leaders at twelve Sonoma County high schools –  Analy, Casa Grande, Credo, El Molino, Healdsburg, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Petaluma, Piner, RUP, Santa Rosa, and Windsor – took action to encourage their peers to use active and other eco-friendly commute modes. By putting on events like the ECO2school Challenge, Walki for Guayaki, Cocoa 4 Carpools, and other walk and bike activities, they were able to prevent 25 tons of CO2 (50,000 pounds) from being emitted, reaching more than 10,000 students county wide!

At the end of the school year, we invited our student leaders, their families, and teacher champions to celebrate with us. There was camaraderie and celebration in a room full of 50 people. We recognize our youth leaders’ hard work and commitment to climate action throughout the school year. Three students were awarded The Climate Center’s World Changer’s Scholarship for $1000.

Many were hovering around the chocolate fountain, but students were eagerly gathered around data as well. Often during club meetings, students would express their frustration upon seeing their school parking lots full of cars despite efforts to encourage more walking and biking among their peers. “Are we really making any difference?” they would ask. However, looking at the data from their schools helped them quantify their success as a team and identify opportunities for greater impact.

Coming together gave students the opportunity to reflect on the improvements they could make as a team to boost the participation at their school. Students plan to take this back to their clubs next school year making climate action fun and impactful with tangible greenhouse gas reductions.

Walking and bicycling to and from school helps develop a lifelong habit and supports a community-wide norm of incorporating physical activity into daily routines. We hope our students will connect the dots as they choose to walk, bike, ride the bus, and board the SMART train and we hope you will too!

 

 

Center’s World Changers scholars engage peers for impact

Meet the World Changers:

The Climate Center’s ECO2school’s Youth Leadership Development program provides climate leadership training for Sonoma County’s high school youth. The upcoming generation have been brought up in an unsustainable high-energy-consumption lifestyle. They need a pathway away from dirty energy consumption and toward a positive future. Through our ECO2school Program, the Center supports a more sustainable pathway of informed decision-making around careers and lifestyle choices. This year, we supported three students with $1,000 scholarships. These individuals are on the front line of our climate movement and working to change our cultural values around energy consumption. Below are their stories.

Emily Gassaway and Delany Miller teamed up to put on “Green Week” at Windsor High School. Emily characterized her project:

Green Week was designed to stimulate environmentally friendly attitudes and to show people that our community can easily, can save tons of CO2 if we sustain certain behaviors. We showed students that we have the power to turn the odds in Mother Nature’s favor and that the change is in our hands. Green Week showcased a different sustainable event or activity each day. Over the week we connected directly with our peers and explained to them the value of different activities like biking and eating organic, sustainable produce. That week we saved more than half a ton of CO2 from being emitted. We hope Green Week inspired our peers to create ongoing healthy habits.

Delaney Miller (left) and Emily Gassaway (right)

This entire experience was driven by our passion for the environment We started small by creating a club on campus to promote a healthy eco-friendly lifestyle, and through this we gathered a following of people who shared our interest in protecting the climate. We didn’t expect it to impact others and to benefit us personally so much. We have walked away from this experience with a new found love and determination to help the environment and have learned a new set of skills. The skills we developed by working together – leadership, communication, and commitment – have given us the confidence to move beyond the boundaries of school and begin to affect entire communities.

Angelina Espinoza has been working and taking leadership on climate for the past four years. In her own words:

When I joined Eco Club as a freshman, there were four members, myself included. During my two years as President, I have grown the club to a steady membership of approximately 25. Over the years I have implemented a variety of activities on my campus to increase awareness and encourage walking and biking. With such a strong and steady group, implementing different on-campus activities was both fun and easy. In my junior year alone, we saved 1.5 tons of CO2 from being emitted.

My work on campus led to The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board. During my time on the board I have become far more educated and engaged about climate issues, and for the past three years I have engaged in many events such as Green Teen, the Y.E.S. Conference, and ECO2School Challenge Weeks. I love public speaking, so I am happy to espouse the risk of climate change and the benefits walking, biking, and carpooling to just about anyone who would listen – friends, family, and increasingly audiences at local and regional conferences.

A highlight for me was being the keynote speaker at the Youth for Environment and Sustainability Conference and addressing over 1,000 students. A speech that truly embodies my feelings on both the immense problem that faces us, and my limitless optimism that we will find a solution: “It’s easy to hear statistics, and read accounts of disastrous storms and sinking islands, but it’s all very removed from our daily lives here in the Bay Area. We all know climate change is happening, but it feels like it’s not happening to us… However, let us not forget that the hottest 15 years on record have happened during the majority of our lives, and that we haven’t known a world other than this hot earth… But also, let us remember that California boasts more EV vehicles than any other state… Let us remember that the whole world looks to California – for fashion, movies, music, and most importantly, solutions. Let us remember that we are in the right place. Let us remember that our planet needs us, just as much as we need it.

High schoolers forced the State of Utah to admit climate change is real

by Jack Greene, High Country News

It sounds completely improbable: The Utah Legislature recently adopted a resolution that moves the state from denial of global climate change to the recognition that finding a solution is crucial.

An obvious question is how this flip-flop occurred in a legislature with a Republican super-majority of 83 percent, in a state that produces more than 90 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels. Students at Logan High School can tell you the answer: For nearly two years, they have been working to make the Legislature budge. They educated themselves about the science of climate change and formed alliances with other students and business leaders throughout the state.

Most of all, the teenagers never stopped. They simply refused to give up.

Their efforts began in 2016, when they learned that, six years earlier, the Utah Legislature had passed a resolution declaring that climate change should be ignored until the science was more convincing. Some Logan High School students found this incredible. They’d witnessed firsthand how climate change was contributing to longer and more intense fire seasons, and they experienced Utah’s dwindling snowpack and increasing water scarcity.

“My generation and generations to come will inherit the many threats that climate change poses,” said Piper Christian, one of these students. She decided to take action.

With the help of key legislators, she and other concerned students drafted a legislative resolution, “Economic and Environmental Stewardship.” Local business leaders who supported the students also wrote to state legislators, saying, “We need Utah’s policymakers to help us prepare for the potential effects that a changing climate could have on our state.”

Elected officials responded by claiming there was virtually no chance of getting the resolution introduced, must less passed. “Don’t waste your time,” they were told. “Try something less ambitious.” That response discouraged some students, but Christian decided: “We will persist, primarily to see this as something that does not have to be divisive.”

Their persistence paid off. Through a combination of networking and building more alliances, things began to move forward. To the students’ amazement, a Republican legislator — Rep. Becky Edwards of Bountiful — sponsored their resolution in the 2017 legislative session. When it was time for a hearing in her committee, the students spoke out forcefully and, some observers said, movingly.

Yet their initial resolution died after a 5–5 split. The students realized that they needed to do more work educating state legislators and also getting feedback on their resolution. They partnered with a coalition of advocacy organizations, whose volunteers met with representatives from nearly every Utah political district.

The six Utah chapters of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby were a major force, along with at least five other organizations that combined with the student network. At the start of the 2018 legislative session, the grassroots groups partnered with Edwards to create an evening program at the Capitol. It brought together high school students, legislators and a five-member “climate solutions” panel. The panel included a physicist, the director of the governor’s energy office, a student from Brigham Young University and two city mayors.

As the students said that night, “We, as youth leaders of Utah, have assembled with you, our state leaders, to address what we consider to be the paramount issue of our generation — that of a changing climate. We hope this dialogue will … ultimately lead to action to address this challenge on all levels — local, state and national.”

Adding to their public support was a business coalition that included Rio Tinto, Rocky Mountain Power, Mark Miller Subaru, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah Technology Council, the ski areas of Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Deer Valley and Park City, and various other major businesses.

The 2018 legislative general session began with Edwards again filing the students’ climate resolution. The students were forced to wait with patience as the resolution moved slowly through the committee process. They learned the importance of compromise as they watched the wording of the resolution change to accommodate various interests.

Once again, testimony from the students about the seriousness of climate change made an impact. Opinions started changing. The bill was reported out of committee by an 8-2 vote. Then, at last, came success as the House passed the resolution 51-21 and the Senate 23-3. A surprising 75 percent of Republican legislators voted in favor of the bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican, signed on March 20.

Now, many people in Utah are grateful to these Logan High School students and their allies, who never gave up despite the odds against them.

source: https://www.hcn.org/articles/opinion-high-schoolers-forced-Utah-to-admit-climate-change-is-real

Designing for change: Safe pathways to school

“I learned that a long walk and calm conversation are an incredible combination if you want to build a bridge.”

-Seth Godin

At what stage would you feel comfortable sending your children walking or biking to school by themselves. My children are 7 and 4 years old now. We live 0.3 mile away from their elementary school and regularly walk to and from school together. On our way to school is Ducker Creek trail where we often stop by to notice when the ducks come and go or even just watch the ripples as we throw stones in the creek. It’s a pleasant walk for the most part but I certainly don’t feel ready to send them off on their own yet. How about when they are nine or ten, I wonder? Possibly, hopefully yes. There is a significant element of doubt and fear still. There are parts of this 0.3 mile stretch that feel unsafe either at the crossings or at points where cars occupy the pedestrian path for parking.  Most of the street has a designated shoulder, where there are raised separators between the pedestrian path and the street. While this makes it quite reassuring, knowing how frantic traffic becomes during drop-off time near schools, it is hard to convince myself that people behind the wheel are truly mindful about walkers and bikers.

A 2010 report from the National Center for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) found that the barriers such as distance from school, traffic related dangers, weather, crime danger, and opposing school policy have remained the same but there has been about a 17% decline in children walking to and from school over a period of four decades, from 1969 to 2009.

It is such a conundrum that this should be the trend despite common sense and research all pointing to the benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle and developing these habits from a young age. It is critical then that children develop basic street skills starting young. An interesting documentary by Pascal Plisson made in 2013, “On the Way to School”, traces the journey from home to school for four kids from different parts of the world – Kenya, Morocco, Argentina and India. It puts into perspective the challenges we face in our communities around building a safe and accessible world for everyone.

At The Climate Center, the ECO2school program has been encouraging high school students to adopt transportation as a high-impact climate solution. For example, every student who chooses to walk or bike once a week for a year can save 100lbs of CO2. The program equips student leaders with the tools and confidence to coordinate campus transportation projects. In the process, these students are supported and empowered to be effective climate leaders and build active transportation habits for life that not only reduce their carbon footprints but also support healthy living, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality for the entire community.

This year as part of an Active Transportation Planning grant ECO2school, in partnership with W-Trans, is conducting walk audits at eleven high school campuses around Sonoma County. The Walk Audit is a process that involves systematic gathering of information about environmental conditions around a school that impact students’ ability to walk or bike safely and easily to or from school. This information is gathered through a community process that encourages various community members to participate such as students, teachers, parents, school administration, as well as local police, city personnel, and community leaders. This data is shared with the public works departments to help drive improvements to the built infrastructure.

Schools receiving audits are: Analy High, El Molino, Credo, Windsor, Casa Grande, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Maria Carrillo, Piner, Santa Rosa High and Roseland University Prep. Analy, El Molino, Credo, and Windsor have completed their audits. This one hour intentional walk around the school campus with our “pedestrian and biker glasses” on, is an interesting experience. Often times the stakeholders at the audit end up learning new things about their neighborhood from each other, simply by being there and being part of the conversation. Here are some examples: At Windsor high school it was observed that there could be much better signage near the Vintana neighborhood leading into various bike paths, at Credo high school in Rohnert Park there was a need for a proper pathway from the SMART train station leading up to the school, at El Molino the crosswalks and sidewalks right outside the campus where there is high foot traffic were highly insufficient, at Analy high school the crosswalk on Sunset Ave behind the school campus did not make pedestrians feel safe. These challenges can be addressed with either minor infrastructure improvements or procedural changes that could significantly improve efficiency and safety conditions.

We invite you to participate in this process and share your comments and observations. Your input as local residents – people who know the area, who live or work there, and know what it’s like to walk around the neighborhood, is important to us. You know the challenges. This is your opportunity to have a voice in making improvements specifically around your school communities. To learn more about bike and pedestrian safety, ECO2school will be conducting community workshops as well that you can participate in.

Here is the audit schedule thus far.

  • Casa Grande High School: Audit: 3/28 Community Meeting: TBD
  • Petaluma High School: Audit: 04/04 Community Meeting: TBD
  • Healdsburg High School: Audit: 04/11 Community Meeting: 04/23
  • Piner High School: Audit: 04/18 Community Meeting: 04/25
  • Maria Carillo High School: Audit: 04/25 Community Meeting: 04/19
  • Santa Rosa High School: Audit: 04/02 (tentative) Community Meeting: TBD
  • Roseland University Prep: Audit: 05/09 Community Meeting: 05/02

You can check for updates on this program on the ECO2school website at: http://www.eco2school.org/schools.html

For further details, please contact Maitreyi Siruguri at maitreyi[at]theclimatecenter.org or 707-525-1665x:118.

This program is supported by funds from the California Department of Transportation Active Transportation Fund.

YES attendees enjoying the morning keynote speeches

Regional conference catalyzes students find their activist roots

On Saturday February 24, 800 middle and high school students from all over the Bay Area gathered at Laney Junior College in Oakland for the fifth annual Youth for the Environmental and Sustainability (YES) Conference. Students traveled from all nine Bay Area counties by carpooling, bicycling, walking, using public transportation, and utilizing the shuttles provided by the Air District. Dozens of students attended from Sonoma County including eight members of our program’s Youth Advisory Board. The annual conference is free to students as an initiative of the Spare the Air Youth program (STAY), a joint venture of Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

There were over fifty student-led interactive breakout sessions including topics like “How to Mobilize Your Movement,” “Use Art Making for Urban Planning,” “Working in the Environmental Justice Movement,” “Using Storytelling and Filmmaking to Create Environmental Change,” and “The Peace First Challenge: A How-To Guide to Sustainable Change.” Other activities included bike blenders and hands-on bicycle mechanic clinics, yoga, capoeira, chalk art in the quad, and slam poetry. This was a zero-waste event and all food containers and utensils were 100% compostable.

Chalk art in the quad by Yeny Pineda and Hector Castillo

Chalk art in the quad by Yeny Pineda and Hector Castillo

The keynote speakers provided inspiration and plenty of takeaways. Speakers touched on the interconnectedness of humans with the planet, the need to find common ground in our fractured political climate, and staying true to our visions for improved environmental stewardship. The close relationship between environmental and social justice was a powerful theme that was weaved into speeches, presentations, poems, and songs. “Our stories and our standpoints matter. Trust your perspective and don’t sleep on your voice,” said Yana Garcia, Cal EPA Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs during a presentation to students about what it’s like working in the environmental justice movement.

Six members from our Youth Advisory Board – Annabelle Lampson, Sloane Tibbens, Solana Jolly, Geena Espinoza, Alana Macken, and Lily Lynch presented on the link between self-care and care for our climate in the areas of food, water, air, and transportation. The group offered practical strategies for treating our minds and bodies with the proper nourishment needed for maintaining both human and environmental health. Solana Jolly, from Windsor High School, shared tips on the importance of drinking clean water from reusable bottles stating, “The way we treat ourselves is closely connected to how we treat our planet. We must find ways to treat ourselves much better. Healthier humans equal a much healthier planet.”

Yeny Pineda, Hector Castillo, and Rocio Carranza taking in the sunshine during a break at the YES Conference

Yeny Pineda, Hector Castillo, and Rocio Carranza taking in the sunshine during a break at the YES Conference

How does one get more involved in environmental activism? Seniors Yeny Pineda and Rocio Caranza, our Roseland University Prep representatives from the Youth Advisory Board, recommend to “create your own group. There are a lot of people wanting to connect with others on important issues, so create those opportunities for yourself. It’s never too late to start.” The excitement generated by all the middle and high school students at this year’s YES Conference suggests it’s never too early to start either.

Maitreyi leads an ECO2schools workshop

Maitreyi Siruguri joins the Center as an ECO2school Program Coordinator

Hi! My name is Maitreyi Siruguri and I recently joined The Climate Center as an ECO2school Program Coordinator.

I was born and raised in India, for the most part in big metropolitan cities, however I was always drawn to the countryside and the serenity of nature. I had the opportunity to explore life away from home and away from the big cities when I was sixteen, in a boarding school in rural Andhra Pradesh, India. This school, started by the Krishnamurti Foundation, centered around a deep exploration of our relationship to nature, to one another, and to problems of fear, authority, competition, love, and freedom. In J.Krishnamurti’s words, “A school is a place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life. Academic excellence is absolutely necessary, but a school includes much more than that. It is a place where both the teacher and the student explore, not only the outer world, the world of knowledge, but also their own thinking, their own behavior.”

This educational experience during my high school years shaped my world view in a profound way and attuned me to being more aware of myself and my surroundings. It set me on a path to explore subjects related to human behavior, social change, community organizing, social justice, sustainable development, and related topics. In the years that followed, upon completing a Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Social Work/ Community Development from India, I had the opportunity to work with non-profit organizations addressing issues related to universalization of elementary education and advancing the quality of education in rural India.

I have lived in Santa Rosa for a little over a decade now with my husband and two kids, ages seven and four. When I came to the US in 2006 and was finding my way around Sonoma County, two critical things happened: the release of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and witnessing a presentation by Ann Hancock on climate change at a Leadership class in Santa Rosa. Not much later, I joined CCP to head up the Schools program. I am back at it now and very excited and honored to be mentoring and training youth climate leaders in our high school communities. I look forward to interacting with many more students who would like to be more involved with our ECO2schools program!

A school district climate change resolution offers model for other districts

You just never know when a quick email reply will lead to something important.  As a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, I received a message from Park Guthrie stating his interest in working with a local school board on passing some kind of climate change resolution and asking if anyone on the list had connections to school board members.  I happened to know that Lawrence Jaffe, a former The Climate Center Board member, was serving on the Sebastopol Union School District. In addition, Renata Brillinger, Executive Director of CalCan and former The Climate Center employee, is also on the SUSD. So, I quickly wrote back to Park and gave him contact info for Lawrence and Renata, encouraged him to contact them and use my name.

I take no credit for the result but am thrilled that the Sebastopol Union School District adopted a Resolution recognizing climate change as a children’s issue. Children today are in the unfortunate position of growing into a world increasingly harmed by the adverse effects of climate change while being too young to vote or be in positions of policymaking. The SUSD resolution acknowledges that climate change is a grave threat, is not partisan or political, and that there is a broad scientific consensus that human activity is the dominant cause, and that it is a children’s issue because they are vulnerable and because greenhouse gases will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. The resolution creates a Climate Change Committee “to develop recommendations for taking action on climate change that are within the purview of the District, such as: curricular and educational opportunities; facilities and operational priorities and projects; targets for reducing District greenhouse gas emissions; and, engagement with local, state and federal jurisdictions.”

It is my hope that this resolution brings about concrete actions by the SUSD and inspires other districts to follow suit. Our children spend much of their lives at school and it matters greatly what school authorities say and do about climate change. When school officials make climate protection a priority, its send a message to our children that we care what happens to them on this planet they call home.