By Julia Wilson
As I walk into the Indiana State Museum, there are tables flanking the two-story “INDIANA” sculpture; everyone is setting up displays. I can tell they are preparing for something: there is a bike attached to some light-bulbs, a box full of dirt, various animal furs, a tiny electric car, a table of tree stumps, and a life-size wooden cow asking to be milked. There is even a lady covered head to toe in plastic bags and a man with a raccoon perched on his shoulder. There is an air of anticipation as I peruse the displays. Then, the yellow buses pull up and hundreds of children come flooding in.
They come from all across the state, from different backgrounds and locations to be here today and show each other what makes their school leaders in sustainability. The museum comes to life with all the excitement and youth. Suddenly, all the displays make sense: crowds of children take turns to try to power Cummins’ light-bulbs on the bike, a trio digs in the box of dirt in search of worms, kids vie to pet and identify the Indiana Wildlife Federation’s animal furs, a pair pretend to drive Eagle Creek Park’s electric car, the Indiana Children and Nature Network emphasize how NOT to plant a tree with their tangle-y stump, and everyone “milks” the udder of the wooden cow.
When I walk up the steps to the second level of “INDIANA”, I’m greeted by children, eager to teach me about sustainability and the environment. I humor them and follow along, but am amazed to discover they know so much more than I, a college kid of 19. They calculate my carbon footprint, show me their chickens, explain aquaponics, watch me try and fail to determine the decomposition rates of wastes, and teach me that even the most inconspicuous pile of garbage holds great potential for beauty in art. I came having all my years of research and experience with the environment, and I’m surprised to find myself challenged by school children. I learn so much in those short hours, and am blown away by the initiatives Indiana schools, both public and private, have designed to both lessen their environmental impact and to educate students.
I am truly awestruck to see the sheer enthusiasm to protect our environment and the love of nature coming from these kids. I realize in that moment how much the future of our planet depends on them; depends on me. We’ve inherited a dying world, and though it’s not fair, the kids at the Going Green Fest show me that there are oodles of communities and individuals that share my passion for preserving our natural world. There are countless people that share my desire to be stewards of the earth and hold ourselves accountable for the destruction and degradation we have spawn. Their excitement in sharing their wealth of knowledge and desire to learn is infectious, multiplying as each student discovers another student or school with great ideas. Too often I’ve found myself despondent when I think about the state of our planet, yet here on this day I am able to see the silver lining. These school kids ignite an optimism and a renewed enthusiasm in me I didn’t know existed.
Earth Charter Indiana’s Going Green Fest is at once a celebration and a hopeful glimpse into Earth’s future, and the passion that was shared and spread among the school children assures me that our natural world will always have caretakers. The youth have the power to shape our planet, and I cannot wait for them to join me in our journey to save the world. It is remarkable how much life Indiana’s youth breathes into a dying planet.