It started with some simple math. One club, 10 members -- they are heard at their school and have a small voice in their community ... but they are only a tiny voice when you look at the big picture. On the other hand, 50 clubs with a total of 500 members have a huge voice at their schools, they are heard in their communities AND they even get consideration when you look at the big picture.
Our environmental club realized the only way we could initiate meaningful action was to come together with other schools in the area.
Of course, this is not a new idea, and what we did was not groundbreaking. It was, however, extremely exciting. On Saturday, Nov. 14, we hosted a Youth Sustainability Summit, featuring two hours of diligent activism to push for a deal in Copenhagen. Over 30 students attended from five high schools in Westchester: Ursuline (my school), Riverside, New Rochelle, Hackley and Bronxville. Our two key focuses were the Climate Bill, essential for American leadership on the international stage, and a binding deal in Copenhagen. In the two hour event, we hand wrote over 80 letters to the negotiators from the four major players (India, China, the U.S. and the E.U.) and called the offices of the 67 senators who are (or are considering) voting for the Climate Bill.
What did we say? Here's an excerpt from the letter to Todd Stern, from the good ole U.S.A., which was hand-copied onto recycled paper. (The content of each letter was altered for every country.)
We are ready for the U.S. to lead on this issue. There is no excuse to resist greenhouse gas cuts of at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, as the science requires to keep global temperature rise below two degrees. There is no excuse to refuse funding for third-world nations to adapt. There is no excuse for continued inaction. ... We do not have the power to save our future. You do. We stand ready to applaud your leadership at Copenhagen, but know we will not accept anything less than what the gravity of the situation demands.
And here's a sample message left to a senator who was on the fence about voting for the Climate Bill. (There were three categories of senators -- "definite yes," "probably yes" and "on the fence" -- each with a unique message.)
On behalf of my generation, I urge you to support the passage of the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill before the U.N. Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen. We need domestic climate legislation not only to lead at Copenhagen but also to protect my future. Thank you.
Our club, which began coordinating the event in early October, originally planned to hold a conference of all the environmental clubs in Westchester. However, we quickly found out that getting in touch with the student presidents from 54 schools proved harder than we anticipated. (Not to mention booking a speaker!) We switched the focus of the event to just activism a week before, and no one seemed to mind. We then used the end of the summit to talk with the other four schools about holding a large conference in the spring. (In fact, we're having the leadership meeting this Sunday -- stay tuned!)
Whole Foods even kindly donated catering, and some of our club members are definitely future "Ace of Cakes" stars with the desserts they baked. (Check out the pictures below.) Ironically, I woke up the next morning, still pumped from the summit, only to see the headline that world leaders decided not to write a binding agreement in Copenhagen. What's a word for the emotion 1,000 times greater than utterly crestfallen? Oh well, it was a great experience to meet so many other passionate students. With this accomplishment under our belts, we have only greater plans to come.
Special thanks to Dennis Power and the Green Schools Coalition of Westchester for helping us contact other schools; to Whole Foods White Plains for donating the food; and to Ursuline for allowing us to take over the cafeteria.
Photos: Maddy Yozwiak