Going Wild for Climate Action in the Adirondacks

Less than a week before the election, on Wednesday, November 2, four Boston ACE Action Fellows made the six-hour trek to Lake Placid, New York. On the ensuing Thursday and Friday, we met up with part of the iMatter team and students from Lake Placid High School, and together we traveled to the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.

The Summit held over 250 people from over 25 high schools and universities from across the region. Watching hundreds of people from different communities and backgrounds come together and express their ‘wildly’ strong passions for climate action was an empowering experience.

I think we all took something very important away from the experience—a feeling that you are not alone.

Even though the temperature outside was brutally cold on that November morning, the Adirondack Summit crew gave a warm welcome to all of the summiteers. ACE’s Brian Stilwell kicked off the Summit by giving a small rendition of the ACE Assembly, and Maggie Slein, a Senior Action Fellow from Scituate, MA, provided us with a heartfelt perspective on how rising temperatures and sea levels have affected coastal communities like her own.

As I sat in the front row, awaiting my turn to speak in front of the audience, my hands trembled. I was enthusiastic about speaking but extremely nervous at the same time. Crowds are not typically my thing, but the energy and the sense of community from within the audience made me less and less nervous.

Kelcey Montimes and I approached the stage. Kelcey, another Senior Action Fellow, wholeheartedly spoke about pollution and how the most polluted communities are those of low-income and minority majority. I spoke out about the harmful effects of coal ash dumping and its capability to contaminate drinking water—urging that we need to stand up for the communities that are so greatly impacted. My heart palpitated as did my voice. Afterward, I felt relieved that my time on stage was over, yet I was empowered to do it again.

We furthered the discussion within our next session in which we helped students and teachers come up with strategies to build and achieve their own Climate Action Plans within their towns and communities. Taking action in order to take action…sounds funny, doesn’t it? Yet that’s what we did! The hard-work you put in as a community will always reciprocate itself.

How can we win the fight for climate justice, you ask? Progress through people power.

With wonderful homegrown food and thoughtful minds, the Summit was a two-day dream—building an environment that’s open to growth and shared experiences. Alizé Carrère, an explorer for National Geographic, shared her many experiences that deepened our understand of people power. The power of climate resiliency by those learning in floating schools in Bangladesh and by farmers whose crops are being destroyed by floods in India, are just some of the ways people are showing their strength even amidst a time of crisis. Carrère’s brilliant and heartwarming narrative showed us that we need to fight back more than ever. The time is now.

There were many other amazing speakers and presentations: Dr. Susan Powers on sustainable biodiesel fuel, Wynde Kate Reese on holistic nutrition through vegetables, the iMatter team on how to give your city a climate report card, and Talya Trevor and McKenna Peterson with I AM PRO SNOW on how climate change impacts the amount of snow cover—snow that eventually serves as fresh water for plants, animals, and all of us once it melts and/or is popularly used for skiing and adventure—which not only affects businesses, but livelihoods as well.

For me, the reciprocity of communal passion radiated from the Wild Center. Many of us entered the Summit with general knowledge of the seriousness of climate change, but I think we all took something very important away from the experience—a feeling that you are not alone. We are in this fight together. Climate action is a team effort and we are all going to have to bring our A-game if we want to defend not only the planet, but those who are most affected by its degradation.

How can we win the fight for climate justice, you ask? Progress through people power. Climate summits serve exactly this purpose. The summiteers—young and old—are now energized with the belief that we CAN and we WILL turn the tide on climate change. Summits like the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit give people a chance to learn and grow in their understanding of our world and all of its interconnectedness.

I want to thank the Wild Center and Summit Crew for having us and I want to thank all of the amazing attendees for an unforgettable experience! I can’t wait for what the future brings!

 

Timothy Irish

Tim Irish is a 2016-2017 Action Fellow in the Greater Boston Area. He attends Boston College High School.