For Earth Day Live, youth urge inclusion of climate change
On behalf of Sunrise Spokane and 350 Spokane, high school students Rosie Zhou and Jaydn Malone hosted a livestream local event as part of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Jaydn said the first Earth Day was held to increase environmental awareness and it led to the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.
In opening, Rosie noted there has been progress, but more needs to be done "or our generation will live with the effects."
The Sunrise Movement gathers students to build millions of jobs while stopping climate change.
"The challenge is to influence corporations and politicians," Rosie said, "looking forward, not right or left."
The livestream included comments by several students:
Ali wants the climate damage to be reversed for future generations.
Emma said students need to know about what is happening.
Gloria calls for the Green New Deal.
Maggie wants that to include Medicare and housing for all.
One said friends think summer wildfires and smoke are normal.
Nora felt empowered by seeing thousands gather for the climate strike last September.
Locally, Sunrise joined the Sept. 20 global climate strike and held a die-in on Dec. 6 to challenge leaders to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.
Nationally, the Sunrise Movement promotes the Green New Deal to save America as the New Deal brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression.
It proposes decarbonizing the planet and moving to renewable energy to create a livable future.
Jaydn said "voices of youth inspire us to make change."
A video quoted Greta Thunburg of Sweden speaking to the United Nations and calling for immediate action because people are suffering, the eco-system is dying and dreams of the young are stolen. She said cutting emissions by just 50 percent is not enough.
"How dare you continue to do business as usual and seek technical solutions," she said expressing the betrayal many youth feel.
Locally, Sunrise Spokane has a petition asking the Spokane School Board do three things:
1) Adopt a K-12 climate literacy curriculum;
2) Transition to electric school buses to cut fossil fuel use;
3) Install solar panels on remodeled and new school rooftops.
Information on the petition is at https://tinyurl.com/ClimateEducation.
Calling for listening to voices of young people, Rosie and Jaydn are pleased some Spokane leaders are listening.
• In a video, City Council member Lori Kinnear said she supports advocating for a healthy Earth as a moral, social justice issue, the "defining issue of our time."
• In another clip, City Council President Breean Beggs expressed support for K-12 climate literacy curricula, electric school buses and solar on school roofs. He said the city is partnering with Avista and schools for renewable electricity buses and solar on roofs.
• Mike Peterson of the Lands Council supports advocacy, education and engagement to demand clean energy and climate science.
Rosie and Jaydn led a virtual town hall with Spokane School District Board of Directors president Jerrall Haines and director Nikki Lockwood.
Jerrall said he is awed that so many youth are promoting sustainable environmental changes. Nikki said she ran for the board to help students reach their potential, and a sustainable environment is part of that.
On the three proposals, Nikki said climate topics already are part of K through 12 classes, and she believes it's important.
Jerrall said it's hard to keep curriculum current, adding climate change is in high school biology, which is required, plus there are classes in environmental chemistry and environmental science.
"We could do better," he said.
When Rosie said she didn't learn about climate change until high school, Nikki and Jerrall said there have been changes in recent years, so climate change is introduced earlier.
Jaydn asked them to review Portland's climate curriculum.
Jerrall said they review curricula every few months, and are committed to climate literacy. Nikki said the curriculum adoption process is ongoing.
Asked about it being in required classes, not just electives, Jerrall and Nikki agreed it should be in history, English, current events, social studies and other classes, not just science.
"With student-directed learning," Jerrall said, "students can push for what they need for quality learning in their education."
On installing solar on the 10 acres of school rooftops, Jerrall said the state requires schools to install more solar and encourages partnering with cities, libraries and others to create group rates to lower costs so schools can afford to install solar and benefit from long term savings in energy costs.
"We will put up solar as soon as we can," he said.
Nikki believes there is the political will to install solar panels, and the city and schools will seek grants so costs are reasonable.
Asked for a timeline to install solar, Jerrall said it will be part of new schools and remodeling in the next six years, because of state mandates for sustainable buildings.
Along with solar, Nikki and Jerrall said other sustainable building improvements to reduce the carbon footprint are lighting, construction materials, energy efficient windows, eco-friendly paint, along with reducing irrigation, construction wastes and energy costs, and installing lead-free pipes, recycling materials, improving air quality in buildings, and having more outdoor views and operable windows.
Nikki said the board planned a survey on community priorities in May, but with coronavirus, it may take place in the fall. Believing input is important, board meetings are open to the public on Zoom.
Jerrall invited high school students to be student advisors to the board and superintendent.
On transitioning to electric buses, Jerrall and Nikki committed to do that, because state law requires a transition to electric vehicles, including 117 school district vehicles, as well as buses.
The district contracts with Durham for buses, so Durham needs to transition vehicles or the district needs to find a new contractor.
Jerrall and Nikki said three votes are needed for changes to happen. Both will put the issues on the agenda, and invite the public to email school board members and staff, and attend meetings so the proposals become priorities.
Summarizing, Jerrall said human impacts of climate change should be not just be in biology—where different teachers address it in differing degrees—because it's about more than science.
Nikki said reports from all over the world of clear skies replacing smog with the economic shutdowns from the pandemic, "let us see the impact of changing patterns in a small time."
Rosie and Jaydn, along with Sunrise, hope to move millions from being passive supporters to active allies in achieving environmental awareness, connecting humanity and amplifying voices.
For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
See 350spokane.org/get-involved/spokaneearthdaylive. A recap of national and global Earth Day is at https://www.earthday.org/50th-anniversary-recap-digital-earth-day-global-calls-to-action.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2020