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.

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.

In Indianapolis, a big victory over coal

By Alexis Litz

Last week, Indianapolis celebrated a huge victory in the fight against coal as IPL announced that it would begin the process of phasing out coal and completely converting to natural gas by 2016.

What does this mean for the citizens of Indianapolis and beyond? Cleaner air, fewer carbon emissions and no more dependence on dirty coal.

Though this is a step forward in terms of a cleaner future, not all of us are jumping for joy just yet. Mirror mirror on the wall, what is the dirtiest fossil fuel of all? Coal, obviously.

So, converting the Harding Street power plan to natural gas is clearly a step in the right direction. But as anyone with any knowledge about resource extraction will tell you, natural gas has its own ramifications.

Hydraulic fracturing, the process by which natural gas is extracted from the ground, poses a direct threat to water supplies. Millions of gallons of water — combined with sand and toxic chemicals — are injected into deeply buried beds of shale where large reservoirs of natural gas exist. The chemicals used in fracking fluid have the potential to contaminate aquifers and therefore make water undrinkable.

When water supplies are threatened, so are human lives.

Another issue to consider about fracking is the seismic activity it stimulates. In areas where fracking is rampant, such as Oklahoma, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of earthquakes. Scientists believe the injection of fracking wastewater back into the ground (for disposal purposes) is to blame for the increase in seismic activity.

If the threat of earthquakes and water contamination isn't enough to turn you off the idea of fracking, consider the contribution it makes to global warming. During the process of fracking, excess methane that is not captured escapes into the atmosphere.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Over a period of 100 years, methane traps 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does. The EPA estimated that in 2011, 145 million metric tons of methane were released during fracking operations.

This massive volume of methane release suggests we are heading for a planetary disaster.

In summation, fracking poses its own set of risks just as coal does. Although I did include the risks of fracking that I found to be the most pertinent, I left out some key issues that are still significant. I recommend visiting the EPA's website for more information.

Phasing coal out of Indianapolis is still a tremendous victory as it ensures we are doing our part to comply with the EPA's Clean Power Plan. It ensures that no more hazardous coal ash will be produced here in Indianapolis.

It means that we can all breath easier with fewer toxins in our air. Because of this change, Indianapolis will be an even better place to live.

For the time being, let’s celebrate and express our gratitude for the volunteers who put in so much time to protect the health of our planet and its people.

 

Alexis Lynn Litz

Geology Major

Environmental Science Minor

Student Environmental Sustainability Coordinator

President of the Green Panthers

Class of 2015

Climate Camp 2014: A camper’s perspective (Maddie)

What is the point of being alive if you don’t even try to do something remarkable?” — John Green

The first day I arrived at the Peace Learning center for climate camp, I didn’t know what I was walking into exactly. There were several different age groups, our youngest camper at age 9 and oldest being 17. There was a significant age gap, but everyone clicked immediately. I didn’t know anyone except two of the other campers and Jim Poyser, but I instantly felt at home.

I didn’t have much to say, considering I had never dug into climate change before. Climate change always seemed to be one of those things that would take care of itself. It never seemed like it would amount into something of my concern. Oh boy, was I wrong! 

All through the week, I learned things I had never even thought of before, and honestly, I am still completely mind-blown. Now that I know it’s my future we are talking about, I feel I have to do something about it. This camp has inspired me to do great things at my school, home and to let other people, even strangers, know what will happen if we keep these habits up.

Climate camp taught me that it’s up to the younger generation to make a difference. If we don’t take a stand and we let the lifestyle we are living continue, there won’t be much of a future to come.

I want to thank the people of Climate Camp, Peace Learning Center, Indy Urban Acres, Second Helpings, Eskenazi Health, and so many more for making this camp possible because no matter how cheesy it sounds, it has changed my life and made me more proactive towards the situation.

Maddie Brooks, 14

Project Libertas

 For more on Climate Camp, see Jim Poyser's blog.

Climate Camp 2014: Re-envisioning Old Macdonald

 

Note: on the final day of Climate Camp, campers got together to create a Climate Showcase. The Showcase included poetry, a play, a performance art piece, and some nifty improvisation. It also included this revision of an old song.

Old Macdonald had an Eco-Friendly farm e-i-e-i-o

And on his farm he had a Grass-Fed cow e-i-e-i-o

With a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there

Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo-moo

Old Macdonald had an Eco-Friendly Farm e-i-e-i-o

And on his farm he had a Free- Range chicken e-i-e-i-o

With a cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there

Here a cluck, there a cluck, everywhere a cluck-cluck

Old Macdonald had an Eco-Friendly farm e-i-e-i-o

And on his farm he had a Compost Pile e-i-e-i-o

With a pee-yew here, and a pee-yew there

Here a pee, there a yew, everywhere a pee- yew

Old Macdonald had an Eco-Friendly farm e-i-e-i-o

And on his farm he had Solar Panels on the Barn e-i-e-i-o

With a saving energy here and a saving energy there

Here a saving energy, there a saving energy, everywhere a saving energy

Old Macdonald had an Eco-Friendly Farm,

e-i-e-i-ooooooo

*jazz hands*

 For more on Climate Camp, see Jim Poyser's blog.

 

Climate Camp 2014: A camper’s perspective (Adara)

With the growing urgency of climate change, we cannot have it both ways. We cannot shout from the rooftops about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and shout even louder about the dangers of windmills. -David Suzuki

This quote represents this country’s take on global warming perfectly: we all see the signs of global warming but we choose to ignore them and put them off to the side. We would rather hide in our ignorance than step out and make a difference. However, there are ways we can spread the word, like by listening to the children.

At climate camp we learned that we are the ones who can make a difference. We learned how to take care of our environment, spread the word about climate change, how to stalk animals, and so much more, all while having lots of fun and making new friends.

Climate change is a very serious matter, but somehow every day the counselors managed to have something fun planned for us. Every day I knew I was going to learn something new.

On the first day of Climate Camp, we took a hike through the woods of Eagle Creek, where Peace Learning Center is located.

On the first day of Climate Camp, we took a hike through the woods of Eagle Creek, where Peace Learning Center is located.

However, it wasn’t just the learning I would look forward to; I also looked forward to seeing all the new friends I had made as well. When I first signed up I thought I would be the person to sit alone because I was too shy to talk to anybody. It turned out to be the complete opposite: despite my shy nature I made tons of new friends.

Going to climate camp was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only did I learn a ton of new things about climate change and how to stop it, I also made a lot of new friends. I will always remember climate camp, and I am hoping to go again next year.

Adara Duncan, Age 12

Attica Junior-Senior High School

 For more on Climate Camp, see Jim Poyser's blog.

 

Climate Camp 2014: A counselor’s perspective

Author Alexis Litz, left, works with campers on a project that involved visualizing CO2: one pound of CO2 = the equivalent of 28 balloons.

Author Alexis Litz, left, works with campers on a project that involved visualizing CO2: one pound of CO2 = the equivalent of 28 balloons.

Last week I had the privilege of volunteering as a camp counselor at Peace Learning Center here in Indianapolis. Aptly named "Climate Camp," the theme of the week was climate change: understanding its causes and learning how humans can mitigate it. It was the job of Kristina Hulvershorn, Mathew Davis, Jim Poyser, and I to teach these children about a concept that many adults have a difficult time grasping. How in the world would we go about doing this?

Being sensitive to the fact that we were working with children, we aimed to combine fun with facts in order to get the point across without boring the children to death.

After the awkward introductory period in which we got the kids acquainted and comfortable, the real discussions began. Keep in mind that the age of these children ranged from 9 to 17 years old. Despite the large age gap, every single child participated in the discussion and was able to back up their own opinion.

To say I was impressed with these children is an understatement. Not only did the children learn from us and from each other, but we adults learned from them as well.

As the week progressed, the children spent time outside, observed the world around them using more than their sense of sight alone (with the help of Matt Shull from White Pine Wilderness Academy), experienced locally grown and cooked vegan food, learned about fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, the importance of sustainable practices and renewable energy, and honed their discussion skills. The benefits these children gained from Climate Camp are invaluable and they yearned to show their parents everything they had learned during the week.

Matt Shull of White Pine Wilderness Academy talks with campers about nature connectivity.

Matt Shull of White Pine Wilderness Academy talks with campers about nature connectivity.

On Friday evening, the children hosted a showcase of all the knowledge they gained during climate camp. Some of the younger children presented a PowerPoint of pictures, others put on a short play written by one of the Climate Campers, and our very own Mathew Davis presented an original poem. Much of the showcase was humorous but the final part was far more serious.

On the screen, a music video from YouTube played while the children stood at the front of the room holding up cards that show the various effects of climate change: drought, starvation, disease, the list goes on.

To the song "Plus Rien," the video displayed disturbing images of desert wastelands, diseased and starving people, an uninhabitable planet. In other words, the future of planet Earth if we humans don't clean up our act (or, forgive the pun, "green" up our act). The work is by a French band called Les Cowboys Fringants and is about the last man on Earth, living in the not-so-distant future, talking about what lead up to this disturbing scenario. The devastation of landscapes and the deaths of those who inhabited by them were exacerbated by — you guessed it — climate change.

The campers' showcase on Friday included this rather chilling piece by Aspen (not pictured).

The campers' showcase on Friday included this rather chilling piece by Aspen (not pictured).

 The haunting lyrics of this song were displayed on the screen: But after about a hundred years some people started to wake up/ And they warned them they needed to stop/ But they didn't understand this wise prophecy/ Those men only spoke in terms of profit/It was some years later that they saw the error of their ways/In panic they declared a state of emergency/When all the oceans engulfed the islands/And the floods hit the big cities.

As I gazed across the room, I saw the same expression emblazoned on the face of every single person in the audience as well as the campers: incredulity mixed with horror.

All morbidity aside, this is the moment every environmentalist lives for: the moment when people really begin to get it. The goal is not necessarily to scare people into believing but sometimes that is the only method that gets the point across. Climate change is no hoax and in fact, a very real and terrifying reality.

Though the children found this video to be quite horrifying, they may still need more time before it really sinks in, but I have the utmost faith that it will. Climate Camp merely planted the seed and will stick with these children their entire lives.

To paraphrase a statement by Kristina Hulvershorn, "We see before us the juxtaposition of our greatest hopes and our worst fears."

It is always said that children are our future and there is no denying the truth in that. The most incredible attribute of these children, our Climate Campers, is that even in the face of a maddeningly uncertain future, they retain their unwavering hope.

Coming away from camp, I learned from those children to never lose hope in a bright future even in the face of oblivion, and that is a vital lesson that every person on this planet needs.

Alexis Lynn Litz

Hanover College
Geology Major
Environmental Science Minor
Student Environmental Sustainability Coordinator
President of the Green Panthers
Class of 2015

 For more on Climate Camp, see Jim Poyser's blog.