The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) demonstrated their passion and commitment to climate action at the sixth annual Green Teen Conference, a youth-organized and youth-led climate conference. The motto of the conference this year was “Generation Us! Bring it Home” as student leaders made the connection between individual behavior and its impact on the planet.
In a room brimming with anticipation and excitement, Solana Jolly, the master of ceremonies, extended a warm welcome to a room full of teens and community members. YAB is trying to model the sustainable behaviors they want to encourage in everyone. She proudly shared that Green Teen was designed to be a “nero-waste” or near-zero waste event, serving a vegan dinner to sixty plus participants. An accomplishment that few community events can proudly claim, thanks to the generous support our 2018 sponsors – Redwood Credit Union, and a host of volunteer cooks and servers.
Ezra Berman and Annabelle Lampson set a strong intention of gratitude at the conference’s onset by guiding all the participants to stand up for a deep breathing exercise. “Our generation is under a lot of pressure as we are witnessing and feeling the very real effects of climate change”, said Ezra. Annabelle followed with, “It is equally important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all life, feel gratitude for how nature sustains us, and use the power of gratitude to be eco-warriors and empower ourselves to push back, and counteract the pressure we are under.” Without missing an opportunity for a chuckle, they warned everyone from breathing out, lest we emit too much carbon dioxide!
Building momentum, Celeste Palmer spoke to holding adults accountable both for what they have done and what they are not yet doing. “Praying that politicians will magically change their minds will not work, nor has it ever. What will work is to rise up and claim our voice and our future,” she said. She pointed to three solutions everyone could implement immediately –namely living sustainably as an individual, engaging with the community, and dreaming big.
Students broke out into discussion tables facilitated by youth board members engaging with topics ranging from climate science and transportation to sustainable fashion. Community organizations, Sonoma County Regional Parks, 350.org, Daily Acts, Pepperwood Preserve, Sonoma Water the Bicycle Coalition, Ceres, W-Trans, and ECO2school shared opportunities for youth volunteering and internships. Nima Sherpa, a Sonoma Valley High Junior said, “I will be thinking more about my choices, from transportation to food to fashion. I feel more empowered after hearing the speeches and participating in the breakout tables.”
Lillian Lynch, from Windsor High School, ignited hearts with a powerful message. “We tend to believe that the most effective way to get a point across is to simply state the facts. However, we forget the passion and the emotional connection to this issue. True power comes from our hearts and minds working together.” she said. She shared her personal mission to create and distribute sustainability kits, and she is developing a series of house parties and events to distribute them to anyone interested in deepening their commitment to positive action around climate change.
For the final activity, participants engaged in designing a future city, sharing personal stories of being a climate advocate, decorating re-usable water bottles, or writing postcards to their elected officials such as “stop fracking” messages to Gov. Jerry Brown and “thank you” notes to Assembly member Marc Levine for passing SB100.
Every attendee took tons of inspiration and ideas with them. A delighted Sophomore Tenjing Sherpa said “I’m leaving here today feeling inspired that there are activities I can do that will actually make a difference for our planet!” Ellery and Megan from Windsor High School reflected that “climate change is a lot more of a diverse issue and we can use the information from Green Teen to educate our family and friends and start discussions. They often have the drive but not the resources.”
We can all find hope in the leadership expressed by students in bringing community together to tackle this daunting problem in a meaningful way. In closing, Ezra and Annabelle reminded us that in fighting for the earth we mustn’t forget that we are indeed here to live on earth, to honor our place in the cycle of life. That “it doesn’t matter so much what we are against, it matters more what are for!”