Students Attend Local Climate Change Summit

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Students Attend Local Climate Change Summit

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Recently, five Williston students traveled to the Western Massachusetts Youth Climate Summit to learn about one of our era’s most important issues: global climate change.

A joint effort by Mass Audubon and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, the Summit has run for the last three years and draws together local high schools to grapple with the environmental crisis. Students participated in various workshops and worked up to writing an environmental action plan for their own school on the second day.

On day one, November 15, the Summit was at the Hitchcock Center in Amherst and on the second day, December 13, it was at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. Both trips were lead by science teacher Jane Lucia.

Two students, freshmen Diana Yasseen and Sasha Kracauer, attended both days of the Summit.

Diana felt like the conference showed her the importance of making even the little changes.

“Little things can make a difference,” she said. “Even it doesn’t see like it makes a big [one], it still makes a difference,” she said.

Sasha nodded in agreement, “The whole point of it was to force us to take action finally.”

The conference stressed the importance of making tangible and realistic changes in our lives, and the keystone activity of the Summit was for each group to create a realistic and achievable plan for making climate-friendly changes at our schools.

One school, Frontier Regional, from South Deerfield, Mass., presented some of the changes their school had made since the 2018 Summit.

The school’s environmental club has gotten aerators attached to the faucets that greatly reduced the amount of gallons wasted. Additionally, the school is fighting to install motion sensors so that the lights in any given room at the school only turn on when someone is using the space. The talked about the importance of having a concrete plan and being prepared to get detailed when presenting plans to school leaders.

Williston drafted its own plan, elements of which are still in the works. The conference attendees plan to start small and work up; many of the groups ideas from the conference will be posed in coming months

“The information piece is really important, but making the action plan is really the pinnacle of the conference,” said Lucia. “And exposure to people in the local area who are experts, who are working on this, from the farm side, from the political side, from the educational side, [meant it was] really well collaborated.”

The Climate Summit is just one of thousands of small scale efforts nationwide to contribute to the fight against global climate change. Student activists like Greta Thunburg, Isra Hirsi, and Xiye Bastida have been making headlines, and in September, millions took to the streets in cities the world over to raise awareness and rally for change before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Their concerns are the rapid changes humans are causing in our environment.

According to NASA,  global average temperatures have risen 1.9 Fahrenheit since 1880 and 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. This warming is in large part due to a massive increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels caused by human industrialization.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the conference left many, including Sasha, feeling inspired.

“After the first day, I knew [more] about climate change, but I still felt hopeless,” admitted Sasha, “But after the second day I felt we could actually take action.”