Three Bloomington High Schools collaborate on climate progress

By Jarrett Alexander, student leader of Youth for Environmental Sustainability and student at Bloomington High School North

On May 31, 2018, students from Bloomington High School North, Bloomington High School South, and the Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship presented their Climate Action Resolution to the Bloomington City Council. The document, written by Environmental Science students from all three schools, outlined changes that the City of Bloomington could make to limit carbon emissions and create a more sustainable city.

Some of these changes, like installing more water bottle filling stations in public areas, would be relatively easy to implement, while others, like requiring the City of Bloomington to continue to follow the carbon emission regulations of the Paris Climate Accord, are more ambitious.

The students, who have named themselves the Youth for Environmental Sustainability (YES) had already met with the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability (BCOS) to get their input and had implemented their suggestions from the commission in the document that they presented to the Bloomington City Council.

 Students from three high schools presented to the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability.

Students from three high schools presented to the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability.

Emboldened by similar, youth-driven resolutions in Indianapolis and across the nation, these students were introduced to the idea of writing a resolution for the City of Bloomington by their respective teachers (Angela Shelton, Bloomington High School North; Amanda Figolah, Bloomington High School South; and Ann Burke, The Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship), Teddie Phillipson-Mower from BCOS, and the documentary “Little Warriors.”  

This documentary covered the story of how students in Indianapolis, aided by the environmental activism organization Earth Charter Indiana, got the Indianapolis City Council to pass the Climate Action Resolution that they had written. Having now received feedback on their resolution from both the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability and the Bloomington City Council, these students will finalize the document this fall and return to the city council to put it to a vote.  

They are also working with the development of the Bloomington Sustainability Action Plan to incorporate the ideas of the resolution into the Plan, offering continuity and strength to both documents.

The federal government has turned its back on the environment, which puts cities and municipalities on the forefront of the fight against climate change. And, if these students have their way, Bloomington will soon join this movement as one of the leaders in the fight.

 Blog author Jarrett, testifying on May 31.

Blog author Jarrett, testifying on May 31.

The Last Straw

This Letter to the Editor appeared in the "Current" on May 21, written by our friend and 2018 EcoScience Fair Community Impact Award winner, Ahan Bhattacharyya. Ahan is a wonderful youth leader trying to cut down on plastic waste, a project near and dear to our hearts! 

by Ahan Bhattacharyya 

Hello! My name is Ahan Bhattacharyya, and I recently made a new petition. The petition is about getting McDonald’s to switch to biodegradable straws. I made it about two weeks ago on change.org, and it already has 1,343 signatures.

I made it because of the effects plastic has on the environment. Plastic is almost constantly hurting us. When plastic is made, it releases carbon emissions into the air. When we throw it away with all of our compostable items, it creates methane. Even recycling causes carbon emissions. When it doesn’t go to landfills, it goes to the oceans. There, it enters the food chain and kills animals. Fish eat plastic, and we eat fish. Straws also get stuck up the noses of turtles and kills them. Turtles are already getting extinct. That is disgusting! NPR also reported that there are now particles of plastic in our salt. People all over the world are probably eating tiny pieces of plastic right now!

 Ahan's display at the Eco Science Fair in April.

Ahan's display at the Eco Science Fair in April.

I targeted straws in general because they are probably the biggest way that we use plastic. We use 500 million plastic straws every single day. That adds up to more than 182 billion straws every single year. Also, in my opinion, most of the straws are unnecessary. We might need them while traveling but we shouldn’t use them at home and restaurants. Some people say that they use straws at a restaurant because of hygiene issues and don’t want to touch their lips to the glass. Well, if they are so worried about germs and not trusting the restaurant to clean the glasses, they shouldn’t even eat there because they are still drinking the water that is in that glass. So that argument is invalid. It means that they shouldn’t also trust the plates and spoons of that place. If needed, there are paper and compostable straws available. There are also stainless steel and glass straws that are reusable.

The petition was also a part of my Eco-Science Fair project. I used the petition along with other ways to cut down on straws usage in my presentation. I got second place in my age group and won first place for the community impact award.

I think that this petition is very important. McDonald’s gives out 12 percent of all the world’s straws. If McDonald’s can only use paper or other biodegradable straws, it can cut down on a lot of plastic straw usage, and that will help the environment.

I request readers to sign my petition: https://www.change.org/p/christopher-kempczinski-hey-mcdonald-s-please-buy-only-biodegradable-straws-and-save-turtles-from-going-extinct

Or you can search by typing “Hey McDonald’s please buy only biodegradable straws on help turtles from going extinct.”

Eco Science Fair cultivates solutions

By Cadyn Waxingmoon, ECI intern

 Winners in the youngest category: Ayush, Molly and Nya

Winners in the youngest category: Ayush, Molly and Nya

Biking through downtown Indianapolis during the morning rush is not my usually my cup of tea. On this unforgivingly windy day though, I was motivated by thoughts of my destination: the Indiana State Museum. I had not been there in what felt like an eternity, but I remembered fondly the wanderlust that it had imprinted on my child's mind in a simpler time. Today I was playing the part of an adult. Upon arriving, I made sure to stop and take in the beautiful art of Watanabe Garden, wedged between the Eiteljorg and the State Museum. After chaining my bike to the rack outside, I entered the museum already anticipating the day’s events. This would not be a day to peruse the museum's exhibits, today was the Eco Science Fair.

To be truthful, not many people get as excited as I do about an annual science fair. But I had participated in the event a few times - even winning first place one year - and I knew I would find at least one awe-inspiring project. Meeting up with the rest of the Earth Charter Indiana team, we went over the day’s schedule and I was introduced to one of the panels of judges. I asked to tag along with the three person judging panel and after viewing one row of projects they decided it would be best to split up. I went with the woman who had been assigned the last three rows. The work we found there was remarkable.

The first student we spoke with had made several types of plastic in the hopes of finding a biodegradable, yet strong, material. He found that the strongest and easiest to dissolve plastic was made with xanthan gum. This project not only looked fun to make, it also could solve the problem of landfills and oceans full of toxic plastic that takes thousands of years to decompose.

 Ahan Bhattacharyya

Ahan Bhattacharyya

Moving on, we met with a young boy named Ayush Bhattacharyya. He was wearing a cape and asserting his disapproval of plastic straws, as well as providing insight about reusable straws. Next, his older brother, Ahan Bhattacharyya, had a project that revolved around educating others about the horrors of plastic. He urged us the CHANGE: Carry your own water bottle, Hesitate to use styrofoam, Avoid plastic grocery bags, say No to straws, Grab your own silverware, and finally, to Eliminate K-cups. This project not only has a wonderful methodology, there is also plenty of real work being done. Ahan has started a petition to ask McDonald’s to switch to biodegradable straws. He is also asking local restaurants to serve plastic straws only upon customer request. Many other projects which promised to inspire lined the isles, but it was time for me to check back in with my group.

I spent the next few hours working the Earth Charter table, until an announcement was made for the Subaru finalists to return to their projects for further judging. At this time Jim Poyser introduced me to Jake Martin and Amanda Wilson, high schoolers who had put a lot of work into their innovative projects. Amanda showed me the tests she had done to see if a certain fungus would fend off bugs and benefit plants. Jake walked me through his ground-breaking ideas on how to protect soybean crops from flood waters. Since Jake's project had such wonderful potential to be applied in Indiana agriculture, he had been talking to Jim about sharing his concept with the world. I assured him that if anyone had the connections to do so, it would be Jim.

 Amanda Wilson presents to the Community Impact judging panel.

Amanda Wilson presents to the Community Impact judging panel.

The time for winners to be announced was drawing close, but returning to the judges I had met earlier, I found they were having a small crisis. There was one panel of judges for each competition category, every panel had decided on their winners except them. I smiled, knowing that there were so many wonderful students they couldn't choose. I was soon shuffled into an auditorium full of restless kids awaiting the verdict. I got to spend a few minutes getting to know the people sitting next to me, but finally a woman strode on to the stage and began the awards ceremony.

Subaru has been a part on the science fair for years, and they always play a video explaining the steps Subaru has taken to become a waste free company. Subaru has not thrown anything away Since 2004. After the video, the first category to be announced was K-4 individual projects,  the first place winner of which was Molly McGrath, a 5 year old who made a poster about reusable shopping bags. Ayush Bhattacharyya, the boy against straws, came in second. In third was Nya Wright, who had made a presentation about wind energy.

5-8th grade individual was won by Marcela Rosales-Harms, followed by Ahan Bhattacharyya in second and Conner Sallee in third. The group category of 5-8’s winners were as follows:

1st: Vincent Uccello, Mallory Gentry, Dalila Butler and Nelen Thompson
2nd: Jaidyn Lindsey, Ella Bayha, Erin Woods and Sydney Settles
3rd: Sebastian Brown, Mateo Jose Soria, Marissa Baker and Ethan Logan.

The first place individual 9-12th grader was Levi Hrabos, who found an organism that could decompose dead matter in radioactive areas. Second and third place went to previously mentioned Amanda Wilson and Jake Martin. The 9-12th grade group winners were:

1st: Nathaniel Oliver and Bryton Doran
2nd: Sumaya Mohamed and Suuban Mohamed
3rd: Logan Motley and Klarissa DiGuilio.

This year the science fair had two new categories, the first of which was video submissions, which was only open to 9-12th graders. There were only two winning groups, David Richardson in first place and Delia Novak and Amanda Eades in second. The last category, my personal favorite and the category my friends on the indecisive panel were in charge of, was Community Impact. The first place winner of this category was Ahan Bhattacharyya, the boy with the CHANGE method. Next was Jake Martin followed by Amanda Wilson, who both have projects that could help real-world agriculture.

After the awards, there was nothing left to do but watch as children packed up their projects and headed home. Saying my goodbyes as the science fair was being dismantled around me, I reflected on what had happened here today. The eco science fair is an annual event for youth who want to make an impact on the world around them. Although winning is incentivized with prize money, competition is never the goal. The purpose is cultivating ideas and helping them grow and inspire others.

Their Lives = Our Lives

I know that young people like me have far more power than we all think. We just have been discouraged, but the source of that discouragement, is what must give us courage to make a change.

Read More

In the Deep of the Clouds

By Sofia Murillo, Ben Davis High School

On April 5, I attended the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) press conference to hear a report on the human health impacts of climate change. Along with being an informative and fulfilling experience, it also made me feel pretty sad. The IN CCIA is a series of  reports developed by scientists from across the state to showed how a changing climate will affect state and local interests. Led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) the presentation at the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital made me face all the things that are left to be done, along with the ones we already can’t do anything about.

 Scientists from Purdue and IUPUI discuss new report.

Scientists from Purdue and IUPUI discuss new report.

A couple of the most disturbing facts I learned are how our health and prosperity have already been affected by the temperature rise and precipitation increase. These changes in our weather go hand in hand with the increase of heart and breathing related diseases, scarcity of resources, and last but not least, how wildlife is and will continue to be tremendously affected.

What are we doing? What am I doing? As a member of the human species that needs the biological process of photosynthesis to survive, I have pondered these questions since I began my teenage days. The answer I have come up for that is that, simply, I exist. My mother brought me to the world on November 29, 1999, but, before that, for my mom to meet my father and take some crazy decisions, her lungs had to take in oxygen to be considered alive, so she could produce life: mine. Such oxygen, that has been flowing around for millions of years, is able to provide us with pure life, thanks to again, photosynthesis. I cannot personally think of a more important process that should be protected.

What the heck would we do without it?

Exactly.

This March I was reborn. I literally stood up from bed one day, and changed my entire life. More than to photosynthesis, I owe to nature the pure passion it has provided me with, which has enabled me to be able to be writing this right now. The right hypothalamus of my brain has encouraged me to develop this awareness, that has just saved me. The ability of sensing the directional flow of wind currents touching my face has given me the most real meaning of what living is, and has made me realize that I must do what is in my hands to thank back mother nature for such happiness.

My first and most important decision was signing up for the AP Environmental Science class at Ben Davis High School in the summer of 2016. From that I formed a bond with Lauren Wyatt, the teacher of that class, and the person who has given me the education to reinforce my passions — which has inspired me to get myself out there. Not long ago, I signed up to be a member of the Indianapolis Youth Tree Tree Team of 2018 with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, which has given me the joy of feeling like I create life, by planting trees, being able to green the city, and improve the energy and water flow. The third most amazing and important decision, was attending to the first Sustainability Summit of Indianapolis at IUPUI with Ms. Wyatt, and meeting Jim Poyser, who has been one of the most supportive and wise people I have ever met.

Now what? How do we become resilient about the ways we can help ourselves, the community in general and future generations, to not only survive these catastrophic consequences, but to overcome each one of them? Is not easy but neither is it impossible. The most important thing I consider that must be done is to work on greening schools by improving education regarding these issues, make this knowledge and these tools more accessible to all communities, with a priority focus on minorities.

Increase the dialogue on this issues, adopt sustainable and clean personal practices like composting and recycling to reduce personal waste, contact and reach legislators to pass policies that can make a change, prepare and adapt for impacts by implementing an emergency response plan, improve the infrastructure and create remediation on algal blooms and pest habitat. We have a long way to go, but there is always hope, connection, love and people with similar interests to work with who can make change, because teamwork makes the dream work.

For more, go to the PCCRC website.

Youth Summit for Environmental Justice in Gary

GaryGroup.jpg

By Cadyn Waxingmoon, Earth Charter Indiana intern

A trip to northern Indiana the first week of 2018 introduced me and my teammates to several extremely bright students. The purpose of the visit was to hold a summit for an environmental club from Steel City Academy, a charter school in Gary. The summit was a way of acquainting them with Youth Power Indiana and seeing if any of our programs would be relevant to them as citizens of Gary. Not having any information on the group of students beforehand, we worried about possible disinterest, boredom, and other side effects of being forced to attend an event by a parent or teacher. Our concern was thankfully superfluous, as the assembly of two dozen youth was nothing but smart, curious and attentive while still remaining vivacious. We learned that the students attending had each been hand selected by their Steel City Academy teachers as a leader amongst their peers who would help change the world.

For the first activity of the day we sat in a large circle and shared our name, age, why we were here and what we were thankful for. I happily realized the group had a four year age range, as working with more than one grade level at a time is always enjoyable. Some kids did jokingly admit they had been required to come to the summit, but they were smiling. Most of the kids said they were here to learn more about climate change, so it was fitting that Jim had prepared an informative slideshow about our planet’s climate. The presentation focused on the difference between climate and weather, weather being the day to day and climate being the long term state of the atmosphere. The environmental club already fully comprehended most of the presentation but still asked several questions which sparked discussions.

 Climate Change in a Jar experiment

Climate Change in a Jar experiment

When the slides finished we took a short break before dividing into groups for rotation. Three tables had been set up with hands-on projects/topics of conversation for the teams to tinker with. At one station there was Climate Change In A Jar, where students place thermometers in two mason jars, one filled with Carbon, cover the jars in plastic wrap and set them both under heat lamps. According to the inquiry, the temperature of the jar containing Carbon increases much faster than the jar full of “regular” air, thus providing a quick and fun explanation of the greenhouse effect. Another table featured team-member Cora holding a session on the carbon and water footprint of different foods.

CoraStation.jpg
CadynStation.jpg

Table number three was split between me at Jim at one end, and myself at the other, dividing our  group of students and swapping them halfway through our session’s timeslot. Jim had his kids analyze the true price of everyday items we take for granted, such as phones, fruit and fast food, considering the environmental impact of factories as well as the wellbeing of those who work in them. Meanwhile, I was talking with my half about garbage. We looked at materials most commonly found in landfills (paper, plastic, food waste, etc.) and thought of alternate methods of disposal like reuse, recycling and composting. Trash does not always go to landfills or incinerators though, and all too often we see videos of wildlife harmed by our careless behavior, so my station included talking points about waste found in the stomach of a dying whale. Each group listened and contributed by breaking into conversations about the workshop without much or any prodding from me.

After the last rotation was lunch and a showing of Little Warriors, a short documentary by Sam Miro covering Youth Power Indiana’s victories in passing Climate Resolutions. The group conversed with Jim about the film once it had ended, but soon it was time to go home. We had a long car ride ahead of us, and as we said our goodbyes I got the feeling we would be back soon.

The White Violet Center for Eco-Justice

By Andi Barnett, Earth Charter Indiana intern

WVC 2.JPEG

The devoted volunteers, interns, and staff work passionately day-in and day-out at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice to maintain the daily needs and upkeep necessary for the center to run efficiently. The White Violet Center (WVC) is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. However, in 1991, WVC was merely an idea of Sister Ann Sullivan’s to renew the practice of agriculture in a manner that sustains the natural environment.

She hoped to see a better, brighter, and more sustainable way of farming and administering agriculture methods on the land, one that would bring justice to all walks of life. Sister Sullivan desired to convert the fields owned by the providence away from harmful pesticides, which were heavily relied on in the late 20th century. Her idea took action with her proposal to the congregation, and in 1996, the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice was born.

WVC brings a great deal of tourism due to its housing of 39 beautiful Alpacas. Many visitors are drawn to the farm because of these peaceful creatures, but leave with a great life lesson in sustainable farming. Teaching and sharing with each visitor means more and more individuals are learning what it truly means to care for all creations in the process of sustaining our own needs. WVC executes sustainable practice throughout their five acres of USDA certified organic gardens that produce various types of greens, kale, ginger, turnips, radishes, and more! There are also two high tunnels, which are long houses that protect plants from the harsh fall and winter months, allowing an extended period for growth.

WVC 1.JPEG

A recent addition to the center is the Farm Store, which opened this past April on Earth Day; here is where real justice is served! At first, the store was a way for the center to sell its produce year round: organic greens, honey, alpaca fiber, you name it. But then, something truly inspiring surfaced; now, there are several local farmers in Indiana whose goods rest on their shelves. Where there were once few chances to sell their local produce and goods year round or perhaps lacked alternative options for business outside of the farmer’s market months, White Violet has given them hope! The White Violet Center’s Farm Store has made it easy to find a wide variety of local farmers produce and goods, such as Pancake Mix and Cereal from Bridgeton or even Brooke’s Candy from Dana.

Beyond serving a daily dose of local justice, White Violet has proved time and time again what hard work and determination can accomplish. From its origin, an era overlapping with harmful farming methods, WVC shut down any doubts of their success at natural and sustainable farming. Now, as a thriving, organically growing powerhouse, there is no limit to what they can do; for example, WVC realized the important role their geographical location plays in the migration patterns to the monarch butterfly. Therefore, they have made it their duty to dedicate a portion of land to increase pollination and ensure the perseverance of this species and habitat while undergoing their migratory journey. As a modern, shining example of sustainable justice, the White Violet Center speaks volumes through their work to sustain all living creations.

The White Violet Center for Eco-Justice

Hours of operation: 8:30a.m.–4:30p.m.

Farm Store Hours: 11:00a.m.-6:00p.m.

Farm Store number: 812-535-2936

Address: 3850 U.S. 150 at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876

 

A day of environmental and civic justice

By Cadyn Waxingmoon, Earth Charter Indiana intern

 Oaklandon Kids for Climate, meet Lawrence city councilors before Sept. 5 meeting.

Oaklandon Kids for Climate, meet Lawrence city councilors before Sept. 5 meeting.

Since the City of Lawrence passed the Climate Recovery Resolution I have often thought about the Oaklandon Kids for Climate and their push for environmental justice. The purpose of my latest visit to the E-STEM club was to help the kids prepare for their meeting with the Mayor of Lawrence. Mayor Steve Collier had enthusiastically aided the Oaklandon kids in their work with the Climate Recovery Resolution, and even issued a proclamation the day the resolution passed to acknowledge the E-STEM club's activism. Now Mayor Collier was coming to Oaklandon to have a follow up meeting with the Kids for Climate.

A recently begun tradition for Earth Charter Indiana is to gift the Mayors who assist us in passing the Climate Recovery Resolution with a portrait drawn by aspiring artist and Youth Power member, Lucy Scott. The Oaklandon kids were planning to present their Mayor with this token of appreciation as well. Though I already knew most of the Oaklandon kids from last summer’s Climate Camp, still others I had never seen before and it was nice to meet new youth who cared so much about the fate of our environment. The new children had never met with a government official before and even the kids who gave testimony for the resolution still had a sense of nervous giddiness that filled the room.

When Mayor Collier arrived we all sat down so the kids could present him with his portrait and he could bring them up to date on how the Resolution was being fulfilled. After happily receiving the his portrait and answering a few questions, Mayor Collier told us about the construction of a new Lawrence Police station that would reduce carbon emissions, though he did not go into detail on how. He also mentioned getting more fuel-efficient police cars, saying that the city could not afford the kind they had initially wanted, but that they would definitely be buying comparatively greener vehicles from here on out.

 Mayor Collier, holding portrait, is surrounded by Kids for Climate, school officials, and IUPUI students.

Mayor Collier, holding portrait, is surrounded by Kids for Climate, school officials, and IUPUI students.

The Mayor, having other obligations, left soon after that, leaving the Kids for Climate to reflect on their meeting. There were three parts to the resolution, the city must create a climate action plan, use that plan to attain carbon neutrality by 2050, and form a Mayor’s youth council that would advise the mayor in issues regarding climate change. Jim Poyser explained to the Oaklandon kids what was being done to fulfill the Indianapolis resolution and then added a few other things cities can do to reduce carbon emissions. The children decided they would welcome Mayor Collier back to their school sometime in the near future and tell him about different ideas for citywide carbon reduction; in fact, they resolved to make themselves his unofficial youth advisers.

Upon leaving Oaklandon, Jim and I made our way towards downtown Indianapolis, during which time we had an encouraging phone meeting with a prospective Youth Power member from Terre Haute. We discussed social justice, aquaponics, our climate resolution, and the merits of vegan food. We planned to attend a City County-Council meeting where the council would be taking a vote on whether or not gerrymandering was harmfully impacting voter rights. If the resolution was passed here, Indianapolis would be the 20th Indiana city to officially state opposition to gerrymandering, and could now move on to finding ways of fixing our twisted democracy.

While at Oaklandon, we had told the E-STEM club about the meeting we would be going to. One of the IUPUI graduate students who work with the kids gave them a crash course on gerrymandering by drawing sectioned off tally marks on a white board and rearranging the lines dividing the marks to show how elections can be influenced by how electoral districts are placed. Now, at the City County-Council chambers, we shook hands with fellow concerned citizens while waiting for the meeting to begin.

Most of the audience was there for the gerrymandering vote and many had brought signs. Gerrymandering was not the first item on the agenda, and we waited as the city county council went through various other business. When gerrymandering was finally brought up there was cheering from the spectators. Several council members were compelled to speak on the issue; as each one spoke their words were either followed with applause if they were opposed and booing and calls of “shame” if they were in favor of  the broken system.

The long awaited vote was at last revealed as 15-10, the motion to recognize gerrymandering as a threat to the simplest of voter rights was passed. The vote received a standing ovation and the crowd soon began to calm down and sink into post victory bliss. Jim and I followed the stream of people leaving the meeting to chatter over the success of the vote and to hurry to his car before our parking meter ran out.

Going home, Jim and I chatted about the day’s events, a fuzzy glow euphoria had come over the both of us after the success of the day. I had seen fellow youth commit to helping their city towards an environmentally sound future, as well meeting an auspicious new member of the Youth Power community. The encouraging city council meeting I had just left was fresh in my mind and was beginning to seem to me as a stepping stone to a predominantly more equitable tomorrow.

I was getting tired, and in the warm haze filling my mind I found blissful undaunting hope that all children would care about the earth, that all city councils would denounce systems which thwart democracy, and that many other days like this would follow, days that would leave me with this warm optimism.

Those sustainable Sycamores

The following story is by Earth Charter Indiana intern, Andi Barnett, a senior at Indiana State University.

As a student at Indiana State University, it’s exciting to see the place I’ve called home for almost four years strive toward a more sustainable way of living.

Indiana State was just one of many colleges and universities commemorated through the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI). The organization that published the SCI, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), aspired for the Index to give credit where credit is due, stating it, “recognizes top-performing colleges and universities in 17 distinct aspects of sustainability.”

Overall, the report praised campuses for their efforts to conserve, rethink and execute initiatives to change the manner in which we live on a daily basis. Specifically, Indiana State University ranked 5th in the nation for water conservancy.

Each school was measured by the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System — or STARS for short. STARS was essential in accurately and objectively rating colleges and universities. In order to be considered a top-performing campus in Water Conservation, colleges and universities had to meet certain standards and expectations, such as satisfactory Water Use, Rainwater Management and Wastewater Management.

Conserving water usage has been a serious priority of Indiana State, as stated by Bryan Duncan, Director of Capital Planning and Improvement. “We have a rich aquifer underneath campus that we access through eight wells on campus. We also use much of our rainwater on campus and are working towards increasing the amount of rainwater that is diverted from the sewer system.”

ISU has been utilizing a water reuse and recovery system to help decrease annual water usage, and has thus far been successful. Moreover, Indiana State has adopted a rainwater management plan as a proactive strategy for water conservation. As reported through STARS, Indiana State’s rainwater management plan features: “About 60% of the campus is irrigated. Our campus irrigation supply is drawn from ground water throughout the campus through a system of eight wells, and replenished on campus through a system of dry wells, drainage swales, and retention areas.”

Indiana State University embarked on the mission of sustainability almost six years ago in 2012 with the origin of the Institute for Community Sustainability (ICS). ICS is driven to promote environmental responsibility while fostering social equity on campus and in the surrounding communities. As a result, the ICS has been the backbone for many of the environmental and sustainability initiatives on Indiana State’s campus. ICS has not only taken on the challenge of enforcing sustainable initiatives, such as the Community Garden located north of campus, but also engaging and sharing environmental awareness with the community by forming more than 75 community partners.

Recognition of hard work brings forth a desire to pursue bigger dreams; although every college or university commended in the Index excelled differently, all schools envisioned the same outcome: to live more sustainably. The 2016 Sustainable Campus Index does justice in shedding light on the innovative and sustainable work colleges and universities are pursuing nationwide, and it’s just the beginning.

Lawrence Proclamation

Prior to unanimously adopting a climate resolution for Lawrence, Indiana, the mayor issued the following Proclamation:

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Restoring Fairness in Our Democracy and Reproving Political Misconduct

On October 25, 2017, the following remarks were delivered before the Indianapolis City-County Council by Christian Omoruyi, a junior and civic activist from Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana.

In Federalist No. 51, James Madison, the Founding Father and statesman regarded as the “Father of the Constitution,” wrote that in order for our republic to survive, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Madison understood that the countervailing passions of the executive and legislative branches were healthy in moderation because of their ability to maintain the co-equality of the three branches of our government, sustain representative democracy, and empower the metaphorical yet vital concept of checks and balances.

Unfortunately, the practice of gerrymandering has tempered this Madisonian model of healthy ambition. The high-tech redistricting of the Information Age has enabled a modern-day version of political patronage in state legislatures across the nation that echoes of the Gilded Age and its notorious political machines. Such patronage embraces deliberate polarization and the geographic isolation of underserved and underrepresented communities in order to reward uncompromising partisans with perpetual incumbencies. These incumbencies are tantamount to fiefdoms: they stymie competition, which in turn encourages voter apathy that dilutes the voices of the people in favor of the whims of elite brokers in a political caucus.

Furthermore, their suppression of healthy ambition eases the pathway for extremist candidates to assume power. These extremists threaten the co-equality of the branches of government at both the federal and state levels with feet-dragging, flamethrowing, and dysfunction, depressing both voter turnout and faith in our republic.

A favorite writer of mine, James Baldwin, once opined that, “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, al- lied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” The civic ignorance that many analysts say is vindicated by the abysmal voter turnout rates of modern American democracy—including Indiana’s lackluster 28% voter turnout rate in the 2014 midterms, a national low—is largely possible because of the brazenness of gerrymanders that obstruct the furtherance of equity.

Of course, gerrymandering has been maneuvered for partisan purposes for two centuries. However, the technological advancements of our time, compounded with the loosening of campaign finance regulations and suppressive voter identification laws affecting our national discourse, are exacerbating its negative effects.

By passing the proposed resolution sponsored by Mr. Adamson, Indianapolis will send a clarion call for the invigoration of democracy in our state. It will join nineteen other cities and prominent political figures from both sides of the aisle, including former Senator Richard Lugar—who signed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to render extreme partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional— who are repudiating the anemia of the status quo and putting country before party.

I encourage the City Council to join the vanguard of Hoosiers who are demanding nonpartisan redistricting reform. By doing so, you will honor the ideals of fairness that are indispensable to the progress of Indiana and our nation.

Thank you.

Indiana University's Energy Challenge

By Cassiday Moriarty, Earth Charter Indiana intern

Indiana University Bloomington’s Office of Sustainability hosts a challenge during the fall semester to raise awareness for decreasing energy usage known as the Energy Challenge. The IU Office of Sustainability describes it as a “semesterly competition between various campus buildings, from dorms and apartments, academic buildings, athletic buildings, and Greek houses, to see who can save the most electricity and water over the course of the Challenge.” This challenge relies heavily on word of mouth, flyers, and events to spread the word in relation to it.

As the Director of Sustainability for Read Residence Hall in the Residence Hall Association, one of my jobs is to do anything I can to make this a success for my own residence hall. Currently, I have posted flyers around the building and will be posting more. However, I am excited to say that the flyers are repurposed. I have spent over an hour walking around the building and carefully taking down old flyers, then printing on the other side to save paper. I am trying to get to the point where flyers are not used by our organization and at the very least used on reused paper products. This itself helps with the Energy Challenge goal.

Overall, the challenge is considered very successful. During the month across campus many building significantly reduce the kWh and gallons of water used. One of the mottos of the campaign is that “It doesn’t take a village” and they use this to convince participants that one person can be the change necessary.

However, there is one major problem with the Energy Challenge. Specifically, there isn’t any direct accountability. Students can take an Energy Challenge Pledge, which helps give them ideas on what they can do to make a difference, such as turning water off when brushing their teeth. But it is a nonbinding contract; students aren’t really encouraged to continue the actions.

Just informing people isn’t enough, they need constant reminders so that the actions will become natural in their day to day lives. Personally, I am struggling with coming up with ways to create accountability for my residence hall. It is very hard to incentivize this type of activity. I place that on the fact that the benefit is non-tangible. The only thing participants really take away from it is a sense of accomplishment that they themselves cannot directly measure.

I’ve noticed after the Energy Challenge is completed at the end of October, people usually just go back to their old routines. Not many kids retain the behaviors. So, my goal is that Read residence hall students will retain some behaviors. I plan on doing an aggressive campaign with tabling, flyers, emails, and programming. This should lead to a percentage of students being hit with every tactic and therefore having more ideas continually engrained and therefore they will retain the behaviors. Which is the overarching goal of the Energy Challenge.

Overall, there is no simple solution to fix the lack of accountability and lack of retention of behavior changes. The Office of Sustainability at Indiana University Bloomington are focusing on one residence hall and completing research of the effectiveness of the Energy Challenge based on the specific variable they are implementing. This research will push forward many sustainability initiatives, particularly because others also suffer from the same problems.

Environmentally focused initiatives benefits are hard to directly witness or measure, and it leads to a smaller portion of people being reached through outreach. Knowing this, IU and its organizations are taking the lead in attempting various solutions to have a greater overall impact on students and the environment.

A visit to Southport Elementary School

By Sam Harrington, 6th grade, School For Community Learning

Standoff.jpg

 

On my way into Southport Elementary School, I failed to notice the fake coyotes. I don’t know how a person would miss a fake coyote, but I managed to miss them. My boss, Jim Poyser, and my fellow intern, Caydn Waxingmoon, claimed they saw them, but they didn’t mention it on the way in.

I rang the school doorbell, and we were greeted by the receptionist who then called the principal. Principal Spencer introduced himself and asked us who we were. I said ”I am Sam Harrington and I am in sixth grade at School for Community Learning.” Because I’ve been interning with Earth Charter Indiana, I have been saying this a lot recently, so I had had some practice. Caydn introduced herself and then the principal took us on a tour and told us how they wanted to make the school more eco-friendly. Lastly, he wanted us to examine the outdoor space, because they wanted a garden but weren’t sure where to put it.

In the kindergarten-first grade wing, the main thing I noticed was that there were no recycling cans. Only trash, even in the restrooms. Maybe wet paper isn’t recyclable. There also wasn’t any visible light switches or motion sensors. The situation was similar with the second and third grade wings, though the classrooms had recycling bins. But the art teacher, Miss White, had three visible recycling bins, fake paper vines hanging from the ceiling and recycled plastic chairs in the shape of human hands. As it turned out, she had taken a field trip to Ray’s recycling plant and had created a recycling patrol. She would be a cool grandma.

There were motion sensors and recycling bins in the remaining, newer wings. Then we went outside and Principal Spencer said they have a goose problem and so they put fake coyotes on school grounds. It worked for all of one day, he said, before the geese figured it out. I noticed a lot of goose poop. A lot! Not kidding! As we walked around the property, I noticed a few plastic water bottles discarded by the sidewalk. Principal Spencer said not to worry because the 2nd graders were going to do a presentation on litter. And every faucet had a leak like a running nose.

Then I saw the saddest thing on earth. The principal said we were going to check on the recycling dumpster and there was only one small recycling bin! My house has more recycling than this. I will somehow make sure they are going to recycle more.

Overall, it was a good experience and it had been enriching for a new kid like me, and made me extremely excited about interning with my boss, Jim Poyser. Come to think of it, their cafeteria could use a recycling bins. Or less individual packaging.

Even if the fake coyotes don’t scare off the geese, at least they make good selfie partners.

 

Climate Leadership Summit a success

By Cadyn Waxingmoon, Earth Charter Indiana intern

The second annual Climate Leadership Summit was a smashing success with about twenty cities represented, nearly half of which by their own mayors. Over one hundred and forty attendees from across Indiana gathered in the Garfield Park Arts Center to discuss climate change and its implications on municipalities. The summit started with a welcoming speech given by Rosemary Spalding, the board president of Earth Charter Indiana, the parent organization whose youth program, Youth Power Indiana, I am involved with.

We then heard from scheduled speakers such as Mayor Joe Hogsett of Indianapolis, Mayor Goodnight of Kokomo and Linda Broadfoot, the director of Indy Parks, among others. Each speaker was introduced by a member of Youth Power Indiana, as there were many of us in attendance.

Ben Rayhill, a junior at International School of Indiana, was one of those kids, and he told me about his experience.

“I came last year, and I really really enjoyed it. It was a really really cool experience to meet all these different mayors and to sit at the same table as these mayors and discuss these issues. So when Jim [Youth Power Indiana director Poyser] said that he was doing it again I was all for the idea of coming again... I’ve helped Jim with the resolution in Indianapolis, I’ve helped with the resolution in Carmel. I’ve been to anything Jim has asked me to go to... I really enjoy it, it’s really fun and also, it makes a difference in the world, and that’s really what I wanna do. I really wanna make a difference, I wanna make the world a better place for the people who come after us.”

As a thank you for helping to pass climate resolutions in Indianapolis and Carmel, it was planned that the kids would present Mayor Hogsett and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard with portraits drawn by Lucy Scott, of Youth Power Indiana. The idea was to show our appreciation in personalized way while supporting a young artist. Unfortunately Mayor Brainard, who was scheduled to attend the summit, was unable to make it. Mayor Hogsett, however, received his portrait early on in the day with appreciation. When asked about her artwork, Lucy, a freshman at Herron High School, said this to me:

“He [Jim Poyser] thought it would be a great and more personal thing to do artwork [of] the mayors. That way it's better than just giving them a water bottle… The artwork itself is basically drawing their photographs, but I mean, it’s a real honor to me.”

Although Indiana does not have to worry directly about rising sea levels, climate change still impacts us. The crossroads of America is heavily affected by tornadoes, and Mayor Greg Goodnight showed slideshows of the damage that had been done to Kokomo by tornadoes. Mayor Goodnight stated that for him climate change was not about polar bears, it was about the destruction of Hoosier homes.

 Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight shares images of the tornado that struck his city during last year's inaugural Climate Leadership Summit.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight shares images of the tornado that struck his city during last year's inaugural Climate Leadership Summit.

Most of the youth I talked to told me they feared for their future and that of their children and grandchildren, but one girl, Adara Duncan, a junior at North Central High School, reminded me that climate change affects more than just humans.

“A lot of times people just think about ‘How will it impact us? What about our future generations?’ But, the animals are also important and we're destroying their ecosystems. So I think it's really important to think about everything… It's not just us that's being impacted.”

Adara’s words are not unusual when it comes to conversations about climate change, but they surprised me as at this point everything felt so focused on Indiana. It was nice to be reminded there were bigger things, like the looming extinction of entire species and crumbling ecosystems, than just the grandchildren I might know one day in the distant future.

“Climate change is important to me because it is our future, it is our planet, it is our health, it is our well being, something needs to be done about it.” Ethan Scott, a Youth Power Indiana member, just graduated from college, speaks to the general tone of the summit. Everyone understood the importance of climate action and was working towards an environmentally friendly Indiana.

Two panels of multiple speakers each discussed what they are doing and what others could do as well to promote green energy, rain gardens, etc. in their cities and communities. After lunch, everyone broke into smaller groups to confer on different topics such as climate restoration, clean water, and green jobs.

 Youth leaders, Cora Gordon (left), leads attendees through a session on Climate Recovery Resolutions. Center, back, youth from Gary, Indiana; to the right, Teddie and Ben Rayhill.

Youth leaders, Cora Gordon (left), leads attendees through a session on Climate Recovery Resolutions. Center, back, youth from Gary, Indiana; to the right, Teddie and Ben Rayhill.

At the end of the Summit, attendees gathered their things and left with, hopefully, more insight on how we are all working towards the prospect of a greener Indiana, and more knowledge as to how they can help. Really, we’re all just trying to secure our futures, and the futures of those who will come after us.

As the young Youth Power member, 6th grader Teddy Rayhill, told me, “I don’t want to live in a trash can.”

Testimony: The weight on our shoulders

Editor’s note: The following is Hillary Gordon’s testimony delivered to Indy’s City County-Council Public Works Committee on Feb. 9, 2017, to encourage adoption of a climate recovery resolution for the city of Indianapolis. The resolution passed the committee, unanimously; the resolution was adopted on Feb. 27, 20-4.

everyone knows what it’s like to value someone. be it your best friend, your sibling, or even your partner, you know what it’s like to enjoy someone’s presence. on the other hand, we all know the heaviness of silence when they’re gone.

today, we are asking you to listen because we are not comfortable with having to carry the weight of another catastrophe clicking around on a “global warming and extreme weather” page as if the effects are not of the world i’m living in

as if the chart that lists hurricanes with a column for the number of deaths is not going to expand

with those bodies having weight on our shoulders

notice that i forget they are people.

we’re turning ourselves into bodies

and we’re turning our ecosystems into corpses

and we’re turning the world into literally a hot mess

please understand that we are trying to make a baby step into a world that doesn’t get worse from here

the idea is to take enough small steps into making a large difference

to say that we are better than making these global effects worse

to take a step back and say that we don’t deserve to put this much weight on the next generations

to take a step forward and say we are willing to devote time and energy into something bigger than us

as children, this is our step

our feet are tiny

but our motivation is unbelievable

we are asking for you all to push us even further

we’re asking you to make a decision and take a chance

to make our words sound less like a long moment of silence for the world we won’t be able to live in

and more like a glimmer of hope

 

High school Senior to build a tiny house

By Abby Fisher, Senior at Decatur Township School for Excellence

Mission: To conserve our Earth's resources, educate the public about sustainable lifestyles, and inspire the next generation to change the world.

 Abby's project.

Abby's project.

Personal statement: Being a good steward of the Earth is a very important part of my life, and in order to demonstrate that in an "out of the box" way, I decided for my school project to renovate an old camper trailer into a livable tiny house. My tiny house will be made primarily of recycled materials as opposed to new, because I do not want to use up extra natural resources on this project. I can simply just use what has already been created, and re-purpose things that were about to be thrown away. The carbon-footprint will be lower because of its small size and green features, such as a composting toilet and energy efficient appliances and fixtures. My hope is to be able to run all electricity through solar panels, but as expected, that does not fit well into a high school student’s budget. Even though this might not be attainable right now, I plan on utilizing all waste that I produce as a way to organically fertilize plants, feed chickens, and anything else I can come up with.

 Abby Fisher

Abby Fisher

Carmel, Indy youth meet Indy's Office of Sustainability

I’m Delia Novak, an incoming junior at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, Indiana. I have a vested passion in the Earth and its well-being and I began interning with Jim Poyser and Youth Power Indiana in June, after reading the Earth Charter and reflecting upon its expression of the scientific, social, and economic urgency of environmental preservation.

Throughout June and the beginning of July, my fellow interns and I dutifully followed Mr. Poyser on excursions to a variety of summer camps and programs around Indianapolis. We met with hundreds of Indy kids and presented them with information and activities regarding youth involvement in efforts to halt climate change and reduce communities’ water and carbon footprints.

On Friday, July 8, we broke from what had become our typical routine to attack global warming from a more legislative angle. We met with the Department of Public Works’ Melody Park, Chief Engineer and Director of Sustainability, and Matt Mosier, of Air Pollution Control, to implement the iMatter Youth Climate Report Card.

In 2013, the research of former NASA scientist Dr. Jim Hansen was used to create a report card that evaluates individual cities’ abilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce cleaner, more sustainable communities. Cities’ scores on five different sections are collectively assessed to culminate in a letter grade, which then indicates the extent of necessary action a community must take in order to reduce its emissions to the levels deemed appropriate by eminent scientists across the country.

The evaluation of this report card was complicated slightly by the DPW’s usage of the STAR scale in measuring the sustainability of Indianapolis. Despite the differences in metrics between the STAR and iMatter version, it was clear from the start that Indianapolis is not as sustainable as it could be.

The DPW is actively working on an inventory of greenhouse gases, and an 80% reduction of emissions is encouraged by STAR by 2050, but the department focuses more on meeting all the STAR goals than reaching a 0 emissions level. In addition to this seeming lack of a Climate Action Plan, Indianapolis is almost entirely dependent upon nonrenewable energy and does not have adequately aggressive carbon removal programs.

As a result, Indianapolis’ score on the iMatter report card will be extremely low. Its sustainability level is not particularly close to where it could be - to where it has to be - in order to halt the effects of climate change upon the city. Be that as it may, Ms. Park and Mr. Mosier are trying to implement policies to maximize green space, water retention, and walkability wherever possible. The meeting concluded with a commitment to work together on a regular basis.

Indianapolis faces a long road ahead, but with the right combination of green policy, environmental action, and motivated kids, progress is inevitable.

 

 



 

Climate Camp and the Zombie Apocalypse

By Alexis Lynn Litz

At the most recent Climate Camp, I struck up a conversation with a man whose granddaughter was attending camp that day, about the movie World War Z and humanity’s fascination with the end of the world as we know it. The allure of the idea of the End Times is so strong that many films and shows about the inevitable apocalypse have been created and distributed by the media.

How is it that we find a fictitious end of humanity is so compelling, so terrifying, yet when we hear about the real indicators of impending doom, climate change, food shortage, natural disaster, drought…it just seems too impossible to fathom?

Just take a moment to really ponder that. What scares you more? A virus that turns those around you into mindless, flesh eating monsters or turning Earth into a planet that is no longer livable for humanity, let alone all of the other creatures. Unfortunately, the zombie apocalypse has already begun, folks. It’s happening all around you. What are humans except mindless, flesh eating monsters who are destroying the planet?

Zombie apocalypse meets climate change and welcome to the current state of the world.

 Author of this blog, Alexis, enjoys the feast of nature at our June daycamp at White Pine Wilderness Academy.

Author of this blog, Alexis, enjoys the feast of nature at our June daycamp at White Pine Wilderness Academy.

This being the second climate camp I have been able to attend, I have gone to my friends to tell them about my experience and they ask, “What is the point? What do you get out of working with children? They aren’t going to get the memo about the importance of climate change so, why bother?”

I could not disagree more. By instilling an awareness and appreciation for nature in all of our children, we are preventing the spread of the zombie apocalypse. Unlike an overwhelming majority of adults in this world, the zombie apocalypse has not had time to imbed itself within our children.

Yes, the underlying purpose of Climate Camp is to educate children about environmental issues, especially climate change. The age range of Climate Camp is very broad and caters to children ages 5 to 17. It is obvious that not all of the children are going to get the same experience out of Climate Camp, but I would argue that all of the children do at least share one thing in common: they appreciate nature more after every single Camp.

All of those children not only enjoy being outside, they crave it, they need time outside. Nature piques their curiosity, invokes happiness within them and provides them with knowledge. I would even argue that children can feel the interconnectedness between themselves and the rest of the natural world.

So, in short, do these children walk away with a profound understanding of the implications of climate change and what it means for their own generation and the future? Maybe not always, but Climate Camp sets up a foundation for the knowledge they will gain in the future about these issues. It plants a figurative seed of knowledge, so to speak. They will go on with their lives and remember what they discussed at Climate Camp and question it.

But most importantly, Climate Camp helps these children enjoy some time outside, learn about the amazing things nature is capable of and how they do not have to feel like they are separate from that process. Appreciation is key; you cannot want to protect something or care about it if you do not have an appreciation for it first.

So, is it time to go outside yet?

 For more on Climate Camp, explore this web site and go to Jim Poyser's blog at http://www.climatechronicles.com.

For more on Climate Camp, explore this web site and go to Jim Poyser's blog at http://www.climatechronicles.com.

Climate Camp, cleaning up the environment

Editor's note: We are launching a series of Day Camps (May 18, June 6, Aug. 15 and Sept. 5; contact Jim for more information. Our weeklong camp, July 20-24, now has a registration form.

By Rohan Gupta

You might not expect a teenager to really care about anything. That apathetic, moody image portrayed by the media doesn’t cut us much slack. But picture this, and stay with me, because it’ll seem weird at first. Picture your house. Now, 3 weeks later, you haven’t cleaned it, vacuumed, dusted, etc. You’ve been asked to leave your house, it’s deemed unsafe. Doesn’t sound fun, right? No matter you age, you don’t want to leave your place of residence ever. Especially not when it’s your fault. So why is the Earth any different?

Yeah, I do care that my place of residence is being slowly dirtied. Earth is humanity’s home, its birthplace. And the cause is pretty vain, comfort over survival. So what can a group of concerned people do to clean, or stop dirtying the Earth? Well, they can band together, for one!

There’s a place where I figured this out.

I met Mr. Jim Poyser, the leader of Earth Charter Indiana, when he came to present to our class. I hadn’t ever really given thought to the plight of our planet. I can’t bring myself to really respect just words, and opinions. I do, however, respect numbers. Mr. Poyser had plenty of those, and I really came to understand the plight of planet Earth. Before I knew it, I had e-mailed Mr. Poyser and gotten the dates for something his organization calls “Climate Camp.” It’s a place to meet like-minded people, interact, and share ideas.

 Matt Shull from White Pine works with Rohan.

Matt Shull from White Pine works with Rohan.

It was a ways away from where I live, but we went to a place called the White Pine Wilderness Academy. It was a small place, at first sight. However, I walked through the doorway and saw that we were meeting in what I learned was called a “yurt”, a traditional Native American dwelling that was near the Academy. Inside the yurt was a buffalo hide, a work in progress. We did an icebreaker, a type of introduction game, and split off into groups. I went with Mr. Poyser to get more information about climate change itself. Afterwards, I went outside, and we played in the snow for a while, while the adults discussed what to do next.

After the educational activities were over, we finished up with a Lakota fire and sweat lodge being built. We learned how to split wood, and I learned how to start a fire. But it wasn’t just any old fire, using a lighter and fluid. I got to use a fire- starting bow, to put it crudely, and started a small fire just by using friction.

Check out a video about this camp.

At Climate Camp I learned a lot, and met a lot of people that I could and hopefully will collaborate with in projects in the future. There’s another one in May, and I’m definitely planning to attend. If you want to know more, Mr. Poyser is a great person to contact for information.

Climate Camp is definitely the place for people wanting to know and do more about and for the environment.