Dutchess BOCES’ new Center for Sustainability and Climate Education hosted its first virtual Sustainability Summit on April 14 bringing together students, activists and educators to discuss critical issues surrounding climate change and sustainabiy.
The programs focused on such topics as how to inspire and empower youth through environmental clubs and if electric cars are truly a climate solution.
Conor Warren, a senior at Wallkill Senior High School, was the Summit’s keynote speaker who said the theme of younger and older people working together on the matter would feature prominently throughout the day.
“Our future is calling on us to collaborate and work together because it’s the only way we can keep our planet habitable,” Warren said.
Warren’s passion for the environment started during sophomore year when his teacher and Summit presenter Samrat Pathania helped him understand that while climate change is harmful, small actions are beneficial.
In 2020, Warren interned for Climate Smart of New Paltz where he created a greenhouse gas inventory to record the town’s energy consumption. Warren knows he is not the only teenager fighting climate change.
“My words are presenting what thousands of other youths worldwide feel,” he said. “I’m here to voice their perspectives and ask for support and collaboration from adults.”
Actor Tim Guinee, who worked with former Vice President Al Gore’s organization The Climate Reality Project, presented a talk about climate change in the Hudson Valley.
New York’s temperatures rose nearly five degrees during recent winters and the state could see more severe weather phenomena by 2045 if fossil fuels continue burning at an alarming rate, Guinee said.
“New York is actually experiencing some of the impacts of climate change more profoundly than the rest of the United States,” Guinee said. “As the earth’s temperatures have gone up, the ocean’s temperatures have really gone up.”
The most important thing someone can do to combat climate change is to keep talking about it and underscore its severity, Guinee said.
“You can talk about science, you can also use art to talk about it,” he said. “We are really moving towards a place where the population’s getting this.”
The center’s mission is to empower K-12 educators and students to make communities socially, economically and ecologically sustainable through experiential learning, BOCES Director of Educational Resources Jenny Schinella said.
“We have offered a series of free offerings showcasing the diverse supports that we’ll be providing,” Schinella said. “We are so excited to host you all in celebration of those efforts.”
The Summit was a success and out of the 100 participants, 40 of them were students, BOCES Deputy Superintendent Cora Stempel said.
“Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive,” Stempel said. “Holding a spring summit was one of our initial goals when we developed the center and invited our partners to work with us.”