The White Violet Center for Eco-Justice

By Andi Barnett, Earth Charter Indiana intern

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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.

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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

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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.

EcoSummit presentation puts global issues in local perspective

Editors' note: Ball State University writer Sara Dreibelbis wrote this story about one of our Youth Board of Advisors, Julia Levine.

“Why does life seem so entwined? And where are we going?”

The play starts with a question, but it doesn’t end with an answer. It’s called Gaia, named after the Greek goddess of the Earth. Julia Levine, a senior theater major at Butler University, wrote and directed Gaia to make audiences think about issues of sustainability and the environment.

Levine presented Gaia on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2014, at the third annual Indiana Student EcoSummit at Ball State University. The event was a forum for students to share ideas on a variety of environmental issues, from climate change to political policy. Gaia served as an example of how the arts can get people thinking about sustainability in creative ways.

Levine showed a recording of the play to a crowd of about 20 students and community members from throughout Indiana to start a discussion about the process and product.

Gaia is an unusual piece of theater. It is in the genre of eco-theater, which focuses on presenting global environmental issues in select bits and more personal ways. Levine said the format is intended to make audiences think differently about how their own lives might affect the world outside of their community.

In Levine’s play, performer Alexander Borrello summed up the common message of eco-theater: “People think that we’re outside of nature. They don’t take into themselves that we’re actually a part of nature.”

That concept of human interaction with the environment was the main focus of Levine’s play.

Levine formed the script for Gaia around everyday interactions, often humorous and lighthearted, that concern sustainability issues. From dinner table discussions on food quality to the stressful shouts of a mother-son driving lesson, Levine presented global issues in a personal way so that audiences could easily relate.

Gaia did not follow the format of most traditional plays. It had no single, structured plot, and the characters were not clearly defined. Five actors in nondescript gray clothes switched in and out of roles. Each performer played several different characters and served at times as a musician, a dancer or even a member of the technical crew.

The actors went by their own names on stage – when names were used at all – which removed yet another layer of traditional theater’s separation of audience from actor. The barefoot performers looked less like fictional figures on a stage and more like people you’d see on the street. Levine said she did this on purpose so that audiences could see how much the concepts in the play relate to their own lives.

Through short scenes, silent comedy vignettes, dances, folk songs and even some moments of beat boxing, Gaia questioned several distinct concepts related to sustainability and human interactions with the natural world. The play brought up questions about organic and genetically modified foods, recycling, driving, the isolating effects of technology and modern society’s disconnection from nature.

Levine said she was inspired to include these concepts based on what she saw in her own community of Indianapolis, as well as global issues. She spent the summer of 2014 researching and preparing for the play, which premiered at Butler in September.

“I was reading about climate change and environmental theories,” Levine said. “And then also just popular culture, how we talk about climate and the environment and nature, and how humans are linked in with all that.”

Levine presented these issues in her play, but she didn’t offer any solutions. She said that wasn’t the goal of the play. Instead, she intended to make audiences think about the outcomes of their actions and look at their lives in new ways.

“That’s what I wanted,” Levine said. “For people to continually question and not accept answers that are presented to them.”

Levine was confident in her goals, but she said she wasn’t so confident about how audiences would respond to this unorthodox piece of theater. She was unsure of how people would react when the play was first performed at Butler in the fall, but she said she was overwhelmed by the how well audiences received the show.

“They were engaged and responded really positively,” Levine said. “People appreciated the use of humor with this really heavy topic, and it was really positive all the way around. It’s amazing to have something that I was inside of for so long, and then be able to step back and hear from audiences what they thought of it.”

Reactions from the audience at the EcoSummit were similarly positive. Emma Laut, a biology major at Marion University who attended the conference, said she had never before seen a play like Gaia with an environmental mission, but she thought it was an effective concept.

“I think that the arts are a really beautiful and outspoken way to get anything across,” Laut said. “When you use art and when you use humor instead of just bluntly saying things, people have to try and figure it out, and people like to try to figure things out. That’s something she [Levine] did really well in this. It kept you captured the whole time.”

Allison Turner, a student at Purdue University majoring in natural resource and environmental sciences as well as political science, said she appreciated Levine’s creativity in finding a new way to present environmental issues.

“We need anything anymore,” Turner said. “If one person can be changed by it, it’s worth it, because you just want to get things out. If it makes somebody think, it’s just one more way to start this conversation.”

Levine’s play left audiences with plenty to think about and discuss. The half-hour show covered diverse topics and brought up lots of questions about the way people interact with the Earth and with each other. Although it didn’t offer any solutions, Gaia did end with a call to action.

“We stand at a critical moment at Earth’s history, at a time when humanity must choose its future,” actress Sonia Goldberg said near the show’s end. “As the Earth becomes increasingly independent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. It is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare responsibility to one another, to the great community of life and to future generations. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world, in which the local and global are linked.”

The play that started with a question ended with another one, in glowing white words projected into the darkness, which sent a message to audiences that the next step is in their hands. “What now?”

Brianna Dines: Standing up for the environment

Editors note: Brianna Dines has served as an adviser for Youth Power Indiana since its inception. Recently, she moved to Canada to pursue graduate work.

Yesterday, I decided my role as a human animal on this earth was more important than my short-term concerns as a graduate student. I was rushing to finish a paper (using a book titled “Friction,” focusing on environmental destruction and globalization) on time for that day’s class, when I found out that people were being arrested on Burnaby Mountain (a designated public conservation area) for opposing US Company Kinder Morgan’s pipeline construction.

I have never missed turning in an assignment on time, but I thought, “Okay, who am I if I finish this paper instead of joining them? Who am I if I stop what I’m doing and make a stand on this mountain that has become one of my newest and most beautiful acquaintances?”

These are the decisions I will need to make as I mold myself into the academic I wish to be. Do I think that writing and thinking about the world and our relationships to it and ourselves is enough?

I do not.

I emailed my professor saying, “Instead of class, we should all show up at the Burnaby Mountain protests and help make some ‘friction.’ Feeling a little silly writing a paper using works on global capitalism, environmental destruction, and collective action and not being on the mountain enacting the purpose of those works. What could we do as a class in solidarity that puts theory into action?”

He replied that he would be inclined to do that, but I would need the majority of the class’s support. I immediately got on Facebook and messaged everyone in class. All of us agreed to come and immediately started talking about where to meet and what to bring. The professor cancelled a meeting at another location so he could meet us at the site.

That night, as we stood in a circle in the dark, we discussed our reading material: how is the landscape itself an agent and an interlocutor with humans in the drama of globalization? What is indigeneity? It was the perfect place to think about these theoretical issues. I saw that social action can be the site of the most embodied kind of intellectual engagement.

I am not First Nations. I am not Canadian. But I am a woman who lives and learns as a neighbor to Burnaby Mountain. I cannot avoid what I feel to be my duty to stand with others against the utter backwardness that is the continuing investment in fossil fuels for short-term profit. This myopic mindset destroys the abundance given which allows us to exist in this world.

As I think about who I am becoming, I know I will need to use my mental, emotional, and corporal energy to stand firm against environmental (and thus our own) destruction and that balance will be the education I will need the most.

 

Climate Action Plan testimony, the sequel: Maddie Brooks

Editors' note: On Nov. 12, 2014, Earth Charter Indiana and Youth Power Indiana returned to the Environmental Rules Board to once again advocate to be granted a hearing regarding a Climate Action Plan for Indiana.

MaddieSpeaks.jpg

My name is Maddie Brooks and I am an eighth grader at Project Libertas.

This past summer I was taught to use my voice. To stand up. To make myself be heard. But in order to be heard, you need an audience willing to listen. That’s your role today.

Climate Change has been demanding to be noticed lately. And a lot of people have chosen to ignore or deny that fact.

Not us. We have noticed.

We’ve noticed the temperature rising.

We’ve noticed the ice melting.

We’ve noticed the extreme weather conditions.

Some people may have excuses or say we’re imagining all of these situations, but being doubted on facts – it wears me out. Let alone all of these guys.

On behalf of the youth, I ask you to take the necessary and responsible steps, as our state’s leaders, to grant us a hearing regarding a Climate Action Plan, to ensure my future is guaranteed.

Citizens of Indiana are counting on you. Each and every one of you have the chance to make a difference. So, ask yourselves, “Why not take it?”

My and future generations are depending on the decision you make. Our futures – they’re in your hands. It’s up to you if they are good ones or not.


Climate Action Plan testimony, the sequel: Cora Gordon

Editors' note: On Nov. 12, 2014, Earth Charter Indiana and Youth Power Indiana returned to the Environmental Rules Board to once again advocate to be granted a hearing regarding a Climate Action Plan for Indiana.

Hello. My name is Cora Gordon. I am an eighth grade student at Eastwood Middle School. First off, I would just like to say thanks for giving me time to share my opinion and for listening to me. I am here to express the fact that we — as in Indiana — need a Climate Action Plan.

Climate change is a real, hard-hitting challenge that we MUST face. It is not something that can just solve itself.

Now, I know some of you probably think that nothing major will happen until you are dead and gone, but what about my future? I want to grow up and I want to get a job, but the way things are going now, my full time job will be surviving.

And what generations younger than me? Will they even know what life was like when people didn’t have to scramble around like animals for food?

In all honesty, I am terrified. I am terrified for my future and also for Indiana. So, think to yourself, do you really want all your hard work for this country to be all for nothing? Do you want your kids, nieces, nephews and grandchildren to have to give all they have just to survive?

Or will you have a plan? Will you have a plan that could save hundreds of thousands of lives and futures? Because I need that plan. And so do all the generations younger than mine.

Jackson Leonard: Letter to the Environmental Rules Board

Editors note: In an effort to convince the Environmental Rules Board they have the authority to take on getting a Climate Action Plan for Indiana, numerous people wrote civil, impassioned letters. Leonard was one of the original petitioners, and here is his letter.

Dear Environmental Rules Board,

Hello, my name is Jackson Leonard and I’m from Stilesville, Indiana. You’ll recall me from the June 11 hearing. I’ve returned from training in California and I’m back only for a short time. I regret not having the opportunity to meet you all again.

I'm a Marine because I believe in the relationship that exists between my country and myself. We listen to each other and take care of each other appropriately. I give maximum effort at all times because my country asks me to.

However, when I ask my country to act on climate change, I’m ignored.

I am exceedingly disappointed and disturbed that my leaders are choosing not to explore an issue that will affect current and future generations. How can I operate efficiently in the fleet knowing that my friends, family, and farm are suffering due to climate change?

It’s my responsibility to defend my country and that should be my only concern. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I will return to a weaker Indiana. I want to trust that my leaders will not let that happen.

Climate change has become a serious threat to national security. We will see global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict. Military facilities and my home in Indiana will be devastated by fierce weather. Fortunately, the DOD is becoming greener in an effort to protect the country from the new enemy that is Climate Change.

The Navy and Marine Corps are deeply committed to energy conservation, preserving the environment, and planning for and alleviating the effects of climate change. The Marine Corps is employing renewable energy, developing energy saving gear, and are currently launching numerous other projects. I’m proud to be a part of that and I expect to participate in similar efforts when I return.

Let’s progress with the rest of the country. We need the Environmental Rules Board to help us take those first steps. If the Climate Action Plan Petition is granted a public hearing, all of the passion, support, and hard work we put into the petition will be embodied in a powerful and convincing display. Let our voices be heard.

Sincerely,

Jackson Leonard,

Private USMC

A Special Resolution to encourage youth

This Special Resolution was passed on August 18. Youth Power Indiana director Jim Poyser was asked to stand with Herron High School student Jackson Blanchard to receive the resolution, which was submitted by councilor Zach Adamson.