On Friday, March 11, more than 200 students converged in Delhi, N.Y. for the Catskills Youth Climate Summit. Among the crowd of enthusiastic youth activists was a crew of 14 Manhattan Country School seventh- and eighth-graders. The day long event was put together by a committee consisting of Catskill youth and teachers and representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Catskill Watershed Corporation and the Manhattan Country School Farm.
Curt Stager, professor of biology from Paul Smith’s College, helped frame the thinking for the day with the message, “It’s important to learn what is true in order to do what is right.” He gave the summit participants a scientific foundation of what climate change is and illustrated the inextricable relationship between humans and nature. Referring to this era as the Anthropocene, Stager followed his presentation of data, imagery and research with a call to action. “We are part of the ecosystem now. We have a responsibility to care for it.”
The second part of the morning was filled with an array of workshops. MCS students participated in sessions about connecting climate change to activism, maple sugaring with solar energy, social media, student scientists and art. Additional workshops were offered by the National Guard, Earth Guardians and Global Kids. Amongst the workshop presenters were current MCS Farm Intern Annie Pevear and former 8-9s Teacher Julie Carino.
The afternoon was spent working on Climate Action Plans in school teams. The MCS climate activists generated a flurry of short-term and long-term ideas, including amplifying student communication around climate change, moving away from disposable wax cups for school snack time and lunch and advocating for more “green spots” in the new school building on 85th Street.
Here’s what a few of the MCS Youth Climate Summit participants had to say about this event in the Catskills:
Malik: “This event was much needed. Other kids our age don’t have the opportunity to get this sort of education about climate change. Climate change has been a big problem, and now we have a better understanding of the issues, and how the media can be biased about climate change issues.”
Vidar: “It was fun being with all my peers. I realized that upstate N.Y. kids are very aware of climate change issues. Although we are doing a lot at MCS, some schools in upstate N.Y. are ahead of us by being able to use solar panels and getting local food. We learned how to improve and work together to come up with a plan to reduce CO2 emissions and making the earth a better place.”
Layla: “It was good that we were able to learn about climate change, not through a lesson, but through doing activities and interacting. I liked our media workshop because it taught us about the impact of the media on people’s opinions and beliefs. The keynote speaker mentioned that whatever we do now has an important impact on the future and the talk helped me understand that my contribution and attitude are important.”