With roughly ten years to go until damage to Earth’s climate system reaches a point of no return, environmental action has never been more crucial. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have ever been, and are warming the planet at an unprecedented rate. This warming has a number of repercussions, including melting Arctic ice, sea-level rise, and mass extinctions. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “19 of the 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.” Whether in the form of devastating wildfires, floods, droughts, or myriad other issues, our society has begun to feel the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, global leaders have failed to take action to combat this crisis, and many countries have just recently missed the targets set forth in the Paris Agreement, a 2016 agreement to move towards sustainability. Gretchen Roorbach, science teacher and Green Club faculty advisor, is frustrated with the lack of international leadership on this issue. She says, “If there’s one thing that unites everyone on the planet, it’s the planet… it’s everybody’s responsibility to get involved and pay attention.”
For CA students, one way to get involved is to join Green Club, a student-led club dedicated to increasing sustainability and awareness of environmental issues. The Green Club coheads work in conjunction with the Environmental Coheads, who are elected at the end of each school year. Environmental Coheads work with the school’s administration to create institutional change, while the Green Club works to involve students in projects centered around sustainability and environmental justice. Past Green Club projects have included coordinating CA’s participation in the September 2019 global climate strike, organizing cleanups of Concord rivers, and raising funds for natural disaster relief. This year they’re focusing on spreading awareness of climate change, specifically in relation to food waste. One project planned for the year is creating a hydroponic greenhouse to grow food on CA’s campus in order to reduce food waste and increase awareness of how food is grown.
This year, CA students who want to take action to support the environment will also be able to join CA’s Sunrise Movement hub. Sunrise hubs are student-led groups that help young people get involved with the movement and take action. The Sunrise Movement was founded by Varshini Prakash among other young people in 2017. As their website says, “Sunrise is a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” They are committed to fighting environmental, economic, and social justice. Some of their primary campaigns include electing “Green New Deal Champions,” politicians who support the Green New Deal (a plan to tackle climate change and economic inequality), and the Sunrise School, where anyone who wants to get involved or learn more can attend trainings on topics such as encouraging people to vote or defunding the police.
Rose Sinkus ’21, a Green Club cohead and one of CA’s Sunrise hub coordinators, describes the Sunrise Movement as a movement for “all aspects of environmental justice and broader social justice.” This past summer, she and other CA students participated in Sunrise training, and this fall, they started a hub at CA. Describing their decision to start a hub, Rose says, “Sunrise was the next step [for environmentalism at CA], so we decided to take it.” This year, Sunrise and Green Club meetings will alternate with each other, with Sunrise meetings more focused on US-centric political action and activism and Green Club meetings more focused on personal sustainability and raising awareness of environmental issues. This way, all students, regardless of whether or not they live in the US, will be able to engage with this topic. Rose believes that there are “two conversations, and they really speak to each other: getting the policy through, and looking at the science.” It is “important to address both.”
Grace King ’22, a Green Club co-head and a Sunrise hub coordinator, believes that the Sunrise movement is a great way for young people to get involved with the fight against climate change. She says, “I think it can be hard to hear about climate issues, and immediately want to take action in personal ways… but I would tell people that it’s just as, if not more, important to work with organizations like the Sunrise Movement and to force our systems and politicians to change.”
In addition to joining Sunrise and other movements, Rose believes that an important way for individuals to push for this systematic change on a personal level is to make “a lot of little choices” to make your life sustainable in whatever way you can. A great place to start with this is to avoid supporting, if possible, unsustainable industries, such as the fast fashion industry. Allie Ehlinger ’22, another hub coordinator, also urges people to vote or encourage others to do so. She says that “the best thing we can do for climate change right now is elect officials who will push for policies that protect the environment and take action to stop [the climate] crisis.”
While the situation may be dire and individual contributions may feel like they have little impact, this is not the case. Gretchen Roorbach believes that individual actions are important. She says “the more voices, the better. Even if you can’t vote, you have influence.”