• Radhika Iyengar

Day 4: Power of art, storytelling, images in Climate education

Ashna Swaroop, Middle School, Millburn, New Jersey

Dvita Bhattacharya, Middle School, Millburn, New Jersey

Day 4 of the Climate Education Youth Summit was refreshing and exciting, as the topic was Communication and Arts for Climate Change. We met 3 groups of people, and learned different things from each. Our speakers from the first event were Mr. Andrew Revkin, Mr. Joaquim Goes, and Ms. Valerie J Amor. Let’s learn about each of them, and how they came to be such big figures in Art for Climate Change.

Our first panelist is definitely gifted in his area. Mr. Revkin is a top environmental journalist, and has reported from places such as the White House, the Amazon, and even the North Pole! He has reported for well-known magazines such as National Geographic, and because of his work, he won a high award for science journalism. He even has a film based off of his work, The Burning Season.

Mr. Revkin explained how the pandemic actually did a number of good things for the environment .Availability and ease of not having to travel resulted in less fuel being burnt and less carbon emissions in the air. Levels of pollutants have gone down thanks to the pandemic. It has shown us that we can adapt, make sacrifices and save the planet, all which have become far more reachable than we thought.

Our next panelist, Mr. Goes, is one of a kind. Before he became a mentor to undergraduates, graduates, and postdoctoral students, he studied in Goa, and universities in major cities, such as Japan and Bombay. He researches topics such as impacts from the climate in the oceans, and microplastics in marine ecosystems. He mentors students from his lab at Columbia University (where he works in the Earth institute), and sometimes evenfrom the sea!

Mr. Goes believes that kids should be the driving force to help stop the climate crisis because they will be the ones inheriting the planet. When working with kids, he tries to let them know what’s at stake so that they are motivated to make a difference. In Goa, where he lived, there were many projects that were environmentally bad. The youth in Goa realized what was going on and how it would hurt the planet, and so they stepped in and stopped it from happening. This only shows how strong kids are, and how much change they can make.

Last, but definitely not least is Ms. Valerie J Amor. She is the co-founder for Growing Broward, which is an organization that supports local food systems. She is also the founder of Drawing Conclusions LLC, where they focus on sustainable design. On top of that, she is also the designer of SCALe, which is an award winning educational design charette. She believes that art is the best way for people to open up and talk about climate change. In fact, her art workshops have been so interesting that one of her students was so immersed that he stayed past dinner time just to work on his project!

Being such a qualified person has to have some hardships though. Mainly, the people she worked with (mostly children), were not qualified to join Summits and other official meetings. Ms. Amor told the moderators that letting kids not come was just dismissing someone by their looks. To empower the children, she says that what gets them to talk is making a strong partnership between herself and them. Climate change will affect kids the most, and it is important to include them in these important discussions.

Speaking of kids, the next event was all about students. Behold the NJ Student Climate Challenge, led by Dr. Andrea Rewes from Rider University, and Heather McCall, director of Sustainable Jersey for schools! The Climate Challenge’s purpose is to show kids what they can do to make a difference in the climate crisis. Due to COVID, geographically, it is restricted to a few districts. But from 2021-2022, Dr. Rewes and Ms. McCall hope to expand their challenge statewide! Middle school and high schools can enroll if they live in the Atlantic City Electrics service area. Think Cape May, Gloucester, and Burlington counties. Student session topics include Climate Justice, Renewable Energy Options, Energy Efficiency At Home, Knowing Your Food, Knowing your Environment, and tons more! For teachers, they provide professional development sessions with topics like Integrating Climate Across Classrooms and Climate Science Primer for Educators. The Climate Challenge has something for everyone!

Sometimes, kids feel like they can’t make a difference. The problem seems too big, and they seem too small. But there are lots of things you can do in your school to make it green. Things like finding your school’s carbon footprint, conducting a waste audit, and anti-idling enforcement have saved schools up to $400,000! You could also Green Your School! use an already-there event like a dance show and make the costume, and sets from reused materials. You could also theme the event with something to do with the climate crisis. What a unique way to bring attention to what matters most! In all, the NJ Student Climate Challenge is something that every school should have, so if yours is eligible, then sign up today.

Moving on to our third and final event, a presentation titled “Creation Subverts Destruction: Artivism in Climate Advocacy.” Our teen facilitators were Edie Fine and Virgile-Mihn Perrier. They are representatives of the Extinction Rebellion Youth NYC, a group of youth who use nonviolent actions to advocate for climate justice. They are an art based group, whether it is a dance routine or a trashion show (fashion creatively made from reused items). A few sentences before, you probably read the word artivism and wondered what it was. In a nutshell, artivism is a combination of activism and art, when the art aspect is used to make a difference. An example of artivism is making a dance routine based on social justice. Or making poetry about the climate crisis. Using your medium of art (music, painting, poetry) to make a change is just what the Extinction Rebellion Youth NYC is doing.

Why artivism, though? Art helps us get in touch with the present state of the world, and defies the stereotypes of learning from books and worksheets, and uses creative mediums instead. As always, art helps you express yourself, something that might not happen if you are reading from a textbook. Art helps us get in touch with the present state of the world

Goes back the stereotypes of learning from books, and uses creative mediums. Extinction Rebellion Youth welcomes everyone and every part of everyone. Art is a tactic that can accomplish making a change because it is a stirrer. For example, one of their artivism projects was to make clothes from reused materials, like plastic bags. They did this on a day in New York Fashion week, and they caused quite a commotion. Photographers thought that they were modeling designs for the real fashion week! Getting that kind of publicity felt so good to the models and designers, because everyone was taking them seriously. If you like being creative and making a change then go to https://www.xrebellion.nyc/ for more information on this inspiring group.

Today was a motivational day for many at the Summit, including me. We hope you join tomorrow's session: Action Planning Day!

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