TUPPER LAKE - Finland may be on the other side of the world, but people there are facing many similar challenges when it comes to dealing with climate change.
That's what the Wild Center's Jen Kretser said she has discovered this week on her visit to the northern European country.
Kretser and museum Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe were in Finland last week attending a summit at the Heureka science center that was inspired by the Wild Center's Youth Climate Summit, which will be in its fourth year this fall.
Jen Kretser of the Wild Center helps students register at a youth climate summit in Finland.
Kretser talked via Skype to the American students organizing this year's YCS, gathered in the Wild Center's theater Friday afternoon, from her hotel room in Finland on what was Friday night for her with the time difference.
Groups from the Wild Center and Heureka have been visiting each other's facilities as part of an exchange program. Finnish officials attended the Wild Center's 2010 YCS, and they liked the idea so much they decided to hold one at home.
Kretser said she could barely believe that the Youth Climate Summit, dreamed up by a Tri-Lakes student five years ago, has not only been implemented and grown into what it is now at the Wild Center, but also that the idea would be a model for another one on the other side of the world.
"I kept pinching myself all day," Kretser said.
She told the students back in the U.S. that she and Ratcliffe got to Finland Tuesday, and Wednesday was the summit. She was put to work as soon as she got to Heureka putting together name tags and programs and setting up signs and tables.
"It felt a lot like home actually," Kretser said.
About 120 students, teachers and administrators from all over Finland attended the conference, and Kretser handed out T-shirts to them with a logo for their summit that mirrors the logo for the Youth Climate Summit she helps organize in Tupper Lake.
The summit began with a video made by Rick Godin for the Wild Center featuring Saranac Laker Meadow Hackett and Tupper Laker Bryan Larson, both of whom visited Finland last spring on one of the Wild Center's exchanges. Ratcliffe said several people commented that it was a great way to start the summit.
The Finnish summit also included experts giving presentations and meeting with individual schools so they could discuss specific situations. Kretser said that was the one thing she liked most that she wanted to bring back to the Wild Center's summit this fall. The YCS in the past has had plenty of expert presentations, but it has lacked that individual attention she was impressed with.
Finland has a different situation for dealing with climate change in that the government there has bought into the idea of it and has invested in strong initiatives to bring about change, but Kretser said the Finns still face many of the same challenges. She said some students talked about having to retrain new janitors every year on how to recycle properly and other familiar issues that students deal with in the Adirondacks.
She said she was interested to find that many of the issues students were interested in working on there were similar to the ones here, like transportation, energy efficiency and local food.
As with the YCS, part of the point of the Finns' summit was to create action plans to take back to their schools and work on throughout the coming year. They came up with ideas like having a no-electricity day at school and starting school gardens, and two schools decided to create a collaboration to work together in the future.
"It's been an amazing experience to be a part of," Kretser told the U.S. students. "I wish you were all here. You're all here in spirit."
Lake Placid science teacher Tammy Morgan said hearing about the Finnish summit was energizing and should get everyone excited for this year's Youth Climate Summit, which is set for Nov. 14 and 15.
"I can't wait to get started when we get back next week," Kretser said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.