• Radhika Iyengar

Day 1: NY/NJ Climate Education Youth Summit

Updated: Feb 10, 2021


Dvita Bhattacharya, Millburn Middle School, New Jersey

Ashna Swaroop, Millburn Middle School, New Jersey

Day 1 of the Climate Education Youth Summit went off with a bang! The theme for today was “Why Climate Action Through Education?”. To help answer this question, we got to hear from a group of amazing change makers and climate activists who are working to help solve the issue of climate change. Their inspiring stories and insightful messages highlighted the importance of this issue and the need for us all to do our part.

To start off the session, First Lady Tammy Murphy of New Jersey spoke about her efforts to solve climate change through education. She proposed introducing elements of climate change education into the school curriculum in 2019. After advocating for this change with the Standards Review Committee, climate change is now a part of the NJ curriculum, and will be going into effect in schools by September 2021. Mrs. Murphy’s work perfectly exemplifies the main point of today’s session: how education can help solve the climate crisis. Our world is slowly and fortunately shifting more towards clean energy(even though there’s still a long way to go). As Mrs. Murphy put it, teaching children about climate change helps prepare them to solve the great issues in our world and gives them the skills to thrive in a world that is more green. Her work proves to us all that education is one of the most important and impactful tools that we have.

Following up that speech, Professor Jeffrey Sachs joined us for a discussion panel facilitated by several young highschoolers and middle schoolers. He is a senior UN advisor, and has done amazing work to battle climate change. Professor Sachs spoke about the work that needs to be done in regards to this issue and addressed some important questions. He compared the fight against climate change to the famous “Moonshot” speech. In 1962, John F. Kennedy set a goal for the USA as a whole: landing a man on the moon. Today, our goal needs to be to decarbonize and turn to clean energy. Professor Sachs stressed that we, as a country, should aim to cut down on our fossil fuel consumption and move towards greener methods. He also answered an important question about climate change and the economy. In our efforts to reduce fossil fuel use, many jobs in that sector have already been lost. How can we balance our economy and our fight for a greener future? His answer was simple: while we may lose jobs on the way to a cleaner, healthier world, the long-term benefits of green energy far outweigh the losses. The new industries that will be sustained by this change will provide new jobs and help the economy flourish as a whole. We all stand to gain more happiness and welfare when our planet is safer and healthier. Lastly, Professor Sachs spoke about our need to grow closer and more trusting as a world. Countries need to work together to solve issues like lack of education and climate change. When we all focus on being global citizens, humanity benefits as a whole.

Next, we had another panel discussion with three inspiring people working to solve climate change. First, we heard from Professor Andre Correa d’Almeida from the School of International and Public Affairs. He spoke about his work creating the Development Practice Lab, which focuses on helping students use research to solve real problems. Professor d’Almeida teaches about sustainable development and works toward possible solutions. He emphasized the need to connect with the real world and get hand-on with reality. Like Professor Sachs, he also believed that global citizenship and international cooperation were the key to solving climate change and many other issues. Our next panelist was Priya Patel from the Environmental Commission in Millburn, NJ. She spoke about how she helped pass the No-Plastic ordinance in the town, limiting the amount of plastic stores used. She talked about how important it is to make your voice heard and just stand for your beliefs. Ms. Patel’s work is inspiring and shows how change is always possible. Lastly, we heard from Radley Faulknor from AmeriCorps VISTA, Public Works Department of Baltimore. He spoke about how redlined groups often face the worst effects of climate change, and how race factors into this issue. These groups face unsanitary living conditions because of their circumstances and homes. All three panelists showed us how faceted the issue of climate change is, and its importance in the world today.

Finally, we heard from Frida Ruiz and Bianca Palomino, two high school girls who decided to take initiative and fight climate change. Frida and Bianca are the founders of the Green Cause, an organization that works to increase environmental education (visit their website here). They produce lesson plans and educational content to help raise awareness within students. The Green Cause’s work perfectly shows how education can make an impact in climate change. Their work is also inspiring to us as the youth - they prove that we don’t need to be adults or have college degrees in order to make a difference. We should all strive to follow their example and work towards fighting climate change, no matter how big or small our contributions are. It takes all of us to make a change in battle, and today’s panelists have shown us all that we can make change regardless of age or circumstance.

Register for the conference here-

Register here: tiny.cc/climatesummit

The New York - New Jersey Youth Climate Education Summit is organized by the Center for Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute Columbia University in partnership with New Jersey Audubon and the National Wildlife Federation in New York City. The main objective of this weeklong Summit is to increase awareness about local environmental issues in the two States and to encourage community activism thought citizen science and other approaches. The Summit will also make youth aware of career pathways in sustainability and environmental education. There will be networking sessions with current sustainability track Columbia University students. The Summit will also provide opportunities for Q and As with world-renowned economists such as Jeffrey Sachs, marine biologist Joaquim Goes, and New York Times reporter and Earth Institute journalist Andrew Revkin. In addition, there will be numerous workshops designed to help youth enhance environmental skills, and play an active role in their communities to address sustainability issues. The Summit is a great opportunity to open young minds to the possibilities in research and activism. The Summit’s Keynote Speaker is New Jersey’s First Lady, Ms. Tammy Murphy who is spearheading Climate Change Education as an integral topic in New Jersey’s K-12 school curriculum.

Join us to ask questions, debate and participate!

Find the recording of Day 1 Here: https://youtu.be/9yD717ApGeQ

Please see full agenda here. https://www.edforsd.org/post/ny-nj-climate-education-youth-summit

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