Youth Climate Summit inspires local students
TUPPER LAKE — The Wild Center held its eighth annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit on Nov. 3 and 4, Youth Climate Program Coordinator Katie O’Reilly Morgan said.
The summit, which was attended by approximately 200 students and teachers from 33 high schools and colleges, was planned by local high school students primarily from Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Northwood schools, she said.
The event consists of two days with the first day having students come together to learn climate change information and the second day having teams, consisting of four to six students, teachers and school representatives, come up with a climate action plan.
“The climate action plan is really the purpose of the summit,” Morgan said. “Then they take that back to their schools and communities and over the following year they implement that plan to help the communities become more sustainable.”
The plans students wrote up this year included numerous different “smart goals” such as eliminating food waste in the cafeteria, putting their food waste into a better composting system, creating school gardens, using outdoor classrooms and putting on carbon-neutral proms.
She added local schools are making big efforts to get their communities to sign on to the I Am Pro Snow 100 Percent Committed Campaign, which is a worldwide campaign to get ski communities, resorts, businesses and towns to commit to going to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
“Really the sky is the limit,” Morgan said. “Whatever the kids come up with and want to do, that’s what they do. It’s really impressive.”
This year, the event had more than 15 workshops with 20 to 30 speakers from I Am Pro Snow, the Adirondack Summit Crew, Alliance for Climate Education, Paul Smith’s College, and iMATTER, as well as poet and hip-hop musician Larry Montague, Morgan said.
One of the key speakers was Alize Carrere, a National Geographic explorer focused on climate resiliency, who goes around to communities globally to see the ways people are creating solutions to the impacts and effects of climate change.
Carrere really got the students to think about how their communities can live with climate change, Morgan said. She added there are impacts everyone will now have to live with, whether that’s less fantastic winters here or flooding along the coastal areas.
“That was a really big powerful message for the students because it was a new way of thinking about climate change,” Morgan said. “She was definitely fantastic about how we need to adapt to the problem, yes we need to solve it but we also need to adapt to the impact and those adaptations need to be sustainable solutions.”
She said all the speakers really allow the students to feel they can make an impact individually, which is one of the biggest messages so that the younger generation walks away feeling that they can solve the problem.
“They are really empowered to take action and make their communities more sustainable,” Morgan said. “It’s really amazing to see the innovative ways and innovative projects they come up with to create real sustainable change.”
She said she went through the evaluations she received after the summit and many students found the program to be a transformative experience that has propelled them into a career pathway, which she sees as extremely important.
“One of my students usually says this group of youth right now is the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last one to do anything to be able to stop it,” Morgan said.