Last Friday, two ACE alumni were invited to give the keynote address at the 2015 NYC Sustainability Summit hosted by the NYC Department of Education. Afsana Akter and Amosh Neupane teamed up to deliver a powerful keynote address, sharing their personal stories of climate activism and calling their peers to action.
The 2015 NYC Sustainability Summit aimed to support school communities to engage their students in sustainability initiatives. With a variety of workshops, a partners expo, and ample time for connecting with new and old friends of the DOE Sustainability Initiative; this Summit provided a forum for teachers, administrators, school employees and students to learn, share best practices and resources, and build stronger relationships.
Both Afsana and Amosh spoke about how climate change impacted their homes: from Bangladesh and Nepal, all the way to New York City. Afsana spoke of the effect climate change was having on Bangladesh, where she was born: “I grew up in Bangladesh where the effects of climate change are destroying people’s way of life. Sea level rise and severe tropical storms continue to intensify. People are losing their homes, communities are being displaced, salt water is poisoning the soil and affecting agriculture and food systems, and the list goes on.”
She also spoke of the devastation caused to her current city by Hurricane Sandy: “Sandy shifted the conversation here in NYC, and it helped me and many others make the connection between climate change and the lives we all live; and the importance of working together to take action and meet the urgency of the challenges climate change poses.”
Amosh spoke about his love for nature and how it drives him to fight to protect our planet and the life that inhabits it. “We are the perpetrators of the slow, painful demise of our planet. Who will speak for the Himalayas and the Dead Sea? Who is going to project the voices of the dolphins and the plovers? Who is going to advocate for the voiceless, the ones being subjugated? I will.”
Both Afsana and Amosh also spoke about their work with ACE and Global Kids. Afsana participated in the 2014-2015 ACE and Global Kids Action Fellowship, joining the People’s Climate March and working on passing a climate education resolution in New York City. Amosh joined ACE and a delegation of students at Power Shift 2013: “Power Shift — for me — was life changing. Not only was I introduced to other young people actively advocating for the Earth like I was, I was able to hear their inspirational stories, learn from them, befriend them and strengthen the network of climate allies.
Given their experience in the climate movement, Amosh and Afsana were perfect choices to deliver the keynote address at 2015 NYC Sustainability Summit. They closed their address by asking their peers to join them in taking action for a cleaner future. You can read their calls to action below.
Afsana and Amosh’s Call to Action:
Afsana: “I hope you will join me in fighting for climate and environmental justice and creating a future where all people, especially those who are most vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation, can survive and thrive. You as educators, you as sustainability coordinators, and especially the students present, all have the power to create a more sustainable world. Just like my environmental science teacher gave me the knowledge that led me to take action, YOU, as educators, can arm young people with the knowledge and support they need to go into the real world and take action. YOU, as students, with your creativity and energy, have a unique voice that can help move adults into action; this is your future to fight for. You are all here because you care about our future, and I have no doubt that with the knowledge, experiences, passions, and talents you have, we can work together to create a more just and sustainable world, we are already well on our way!
“Let’s ensure that all people here in NYC, across the country, in Bangladesh and all over the world, have access to climate and sustainability education and opportunities to be a part of the solutions!”
Amosh: “I recently read an article in the New York Times that mentioned the overwhelming whiteness of our National Park system: the staff and the visitors. This is concerning because I can’t fathom a world where some kids don’t have the chance to interact with nature like I did. Many young people are deprived of the immense offerings of our natural spaces -- especially inner city youth, kids from low-income communities and communities of color. As teachers and school staff, you can hugely impact the experiences of the young people attending NYC public schools, and help them reconnect with nature and understand their impact on the environment. The climate justice movement and the broader environmental movement needs youth leaders, especially from minority communities that are most vulnerable to environmental injustices, to advocate for solutions that promote social justice and an equitable planet for all. Join me in supporting youth leadership by empowering youth through your school sustainability initiatives!”