Students and their allies gathered on the steps of New York City’s City Hall with signs in hand and passion in their voices. “What do we want?” Jatnna Ramirez, Trainer at Global Kids, shouted. “Climate education!” the group responded. “When do we want it?”, Jatnna asked. “Now!” the group answered with conviction and cheers.
On June 10th, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) joined with students from Global Kids , City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Donovan Richards, the CUNY Law School Center for Urban Environmental Reform, and UPROSE for a student rally and press conference. They were there to call for a comprehensive climate education mandate for K-12 NYC public schools.
“We are the future leaders and voters. How are we supposed to find solutions to climate change when we are not taught about any of this in school? Don’t you think as youth we deserve to know and be prepared for the problems we are going to be facing?” asked student Annie Willis to open the press conference. Annie is a Global Kids student leader and Hurricane Sandy survivor who remains displaced by the storm to this day.
Annie concluded with this call to action: ‘As New York City Public School students we are asking NYC policy makers and the Department of Education to be an example for all cities to implement changes in our public schools curriculums to include climate justice and going green in classrooms. So I end this with a quote from Malcolm X “Education is our passport to the future, so tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today!”’
Afsana Akter, a senior at Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies and ACE leader also spoke at the conference,.declaring the right of youth to have the knowledge necessary to fight climate change.
“We have the right to learn the facts because when we have the facts, we can make more informed decisions, adapt, and mitigate to lessen the effects of climate change… I no longer want to be a target for misinformation. We, youth, are the ones that will have to face the biggest impact of climate change. Hiding the facts will not eradicate the detrimental consequences. We shouldn't be afraid of learning and teaching the truth because in the end, it is we who will have to face it; and if we ignore it now, it might be too late later.”
Jonathan Ferrer, youth leader at UPROSE also referenced the importance of access to climate education for youth.
“On behalf of UPROSE I am here today to say that integrating environmental justice and climate education into our curriculum is essential for us to address this behemoth called climate change. If kids understand the connection between asthma and the power plants down the block they might just get a little more excited about science in school. If they’re told that the pollutants are held in lower income communities of color they might get a little more excited about social studies. If we learn that we can volunteer with organizations on the ground we can learn how to use a variety of tools from infrastructure to organizing to change our climate reality. Ours is the generation that will be impacted the most by climate change. Today is the day to change the curriculum.”
Council Member Costa Constantinides, who will be the primary sponsor of a New York City Council Resolution asking the Department of Education to mandate climate change curriculum, recognized the role of youth leaders in bringing about change, declaring:
“As a member of the Environmental Protection Committee, and someone who lives in western Queens and represents Long Island City High School and Bryant High School...I understand what we’re dealing with and the young people are leading us and rightfully so, you guys are 110 percent right…. You’re going to be the next council members standing here where Donovan and I are…You guys are amazing and we’ll be following your lead. You guys are the leaders, you’re the young people in our high schools. Thank you for the work you’re doing. Thank you for opening our eyes!”
The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is proud to co-sponsor the Global Kids’ petition calling for New York City Schools Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, to mandate climate education in all NYC Public Schools. We look forward to working with our student leaders and teachers in NYC to help pass and implement a climate education mandate to ensure that all students receive an in-depth climate education. This will provide them with the knowledge to drive climate change solutions and create a more just and resilient future for NYC!
You can support NYC student climate leaders and their campaign for a climate education mandate in K-12 NYC public schools by signing the petition and then sharing the petition through social media.