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.”