Back-to-School Climate Education Event

Christy Goldfuss:
Hello, everyone. Again, my name’s
Christy Goldfuss; I’m the managing
director for the Council on Environmental Quality. And for those of you who don’t
know every single of the White House, let me just
a brief moment to explain what we do, what the Council
on Environmental Quality is responsible for. So there are 11 different
components in the White House. You may have heard of things
like the National Economic Council or the National
Security Council. Well, we’re the Council
that’s responsible for advising the President
on the environment. So it’s a broad portfolio
that, you know — we deal with everything
from chemical spills, clearly, to climate change. Also to things that are more
fun, like national parks. So it’s a phenomenal job,
a huge responsibility, but right now it is one of
the most exciting times to be here in the White
House and to have all of you here at this
point, where we’re really seeing a change in
how the American public feels about climate
change and how we’re talking about it both
in the political space and in the
education space. So as part of this
conversation today, one of the things that has
struck me — we’ve had many college students come
in over the past year — talk about the work that
they’re doing on their campuses and how
they’re really kind of leading that work. But we also hear — a lot
of the political tension we have here in Washington,
D.C. is not as prevalent on campuses because your
generation sees it very differently than some of
the older generations. So I think we’ll
get into that in some of our
conversation today. But I just wanted to
start out by asking you guys if you could each
just take a few minutes, tell us a little bit
more about yourselves and the work that
you’re doing, and how you’ve gotten
involved with this. So let’s start
with Robert. Robert Young: Hey, everyone. It’s an honor to
be here today. So I’m a student at
Stanford University; I’m also the co-director
of sustainability initiatives there for
the student government, along with Chiamaka
back there. But I really started off
in my climate education journey, from a
love of nature as a child. And from there I also
really enjoyed science and technology, so I loved
solar panels, wind turbines, all the really cool
sustainable technologies. From that I got involved with
the Alliance for Climate Education in High School. I was working in my high school
Environmental Impact Club, and we brought them
for the presentation. And it was a really
incredible experience, and from there I’ve really
enjoyed trying to get other students involved in
climate education as well, especially with all these
really incredible conferences like the Green Schools
Alliance Conference and — as well as all of these
incredible resources we’ve just heard
a lot about. Eugen Cotei: Hello, everyone. My name is Eugen Cotei,
and I’m a student at Rancho High School if
you guys missed that. But I really connected with some
of the speakers today because they did mention that their
childhood was very important in, you know, who they
are today, and that’s the same with me. It all started when
I was in Europe. And, you know, it
kind of sounds cheesy, but I used to run around the
Carpathian Alps and, you know, I just saw all of the
beauty that was out there in the world. And when we moved here
about seven years ago, I was 10 years
old and, you know, it changed me because
I realized I can go out there and change
the world itself. It all started in high
school; I was a freshman and I went to get into an
environmental action club. And in that club we
completely revised the recycling policies,
and we just started to see how much educational —
education on the environment can have an effect on
not only students but also on the surrounding
community as well. From there I did get
in involved with the Southern Nevada Water
Authority’s Advisory Council, which is one youth from each
high school in our valley, which tries to strengthen
the voice of the youth in the southern-southwest
United States water issues that we all
know we do have. I also continue to work with
Green Schools National Society, and I am president of
that today and also am a student on the
“Keep America Beautiful” National Youth Council. So through all of these
organizations I will continue to strive to bring
awareness that youths really do have a voice, and
we are the only ones that can truly make an impact
onto this society. Talia Schmitt: Hello, everyone. My name is Talia Schmitt
and I am a rising sophomore at the College
of William and Mary. But I’m going to talk a
little bit about what I’ve done right around
here in Fairfax County. I’ve been very involved with
National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Program,
where they provide difference resources so that students
can start their own projects. And I started a project
called Eco-Schools Leadership Initiative, or
you can call it ESLI. And our slogan is,
“With a little bit of knowledge you can
easily make a difference.” (laughter) Talia Schmitt: And what
we do with that is, we have high school
and college students go to elementary schools
once a month to teach kids about the environment
through interactive games and activities. So for an example, I brought
my cereal box folder, which you can see here. But we’ll do something like,
we’ll make a cereal box folder with them and
then we’ll teach the kids about reduce,
reuse, recycle. Or we’ll play
Greenhouse Gas Tag with the kids and we’ll talk
about climate change. And so we really
are moving around, getting kids moving around. And so it’s really exciting
because what we’ve done is, we’ve — we started
with just a few of us and now we’re branching
out in Fairfax County. All of our resources
are available online, on our website. And anyone, also, if
you’re interested, you can send me an e-mail
at [email protected] and I’ll send you
more information. But basically,
different high school and college students
have these resources. They can pick a subject; they
can go to the SAC after-school program and teach the kids
about the environment. So that’s what we’re
doing right now. And if you’re a teacher and
you have suggestions as — in terms of different lesson activities that you think would be really great
for us to teach kids, send me an email — again, [email protected] – or, if you’re a high school
student, college student, you want to get involved,
also let me know. So this is kind of a project
I’m working on right now, branching out throughout
Virginia to kind of, again, empower the older students,
giving them this leadership experience to teach younger
students and then giving those young students an opportunity,
because we know that teachers are busy and this is an
opportunity through the after-school programs to
actually get kids engaged and involved. So that’s what I’m
involved in right now. Jack Ruiz: Good morning. My name is Jack Ruiz. I’m a recent graduate of
Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft and I’m a
soon-to-be first-year student at Columbia University. My interest in climate
education started when I was approached by one of
my best friends who’s here in the audience today
— Michael Phone — and he asked me if I had
any interest in helping with a project
he’s starting up. And from then I was like,
“Sure,” and I brought a — I brought my town to the
project, and the birth of our project — called
the double-layer press, which converts bomb mass
waste into usable fuel — was pretty much born. And we starting taking
it around and showing it to other people to see if
they actually enjoyed it. And we felt the best way to
see if it truly could make an impact on the world was
by testing it in, like, a real Third-World setting. And I was able to take it
to my mother’s village of Palencia, Guatemala. A really rural village; it
can barely even find a map. And from then on I pretty
much started enjoying it; enjoying the times,
enjoying having a fun time as my best friends while
sometimes learning them, actually making an impact on
the world and actually seeing other kids approaching us and
wanting to be involved in it, asking ways in which they
can also make an impact on deforestation or
anything like that. And from then on, I was like,
climate education’s actually pretty fun and actually
pretty interesting, so I think I’m
going to keep going with it. (laughter) Christy Goldfuss: Talia, I
think we heard from the other participants what sort of
sparked their interest, but in your great description
of the work you’re doing — but what was the —
what was that moment, that sort of “aha”
moment for you that this was the work that you
were interested in? Talia Schmitt: Yes, so what
I always credit to was when I was in sixth grade. I lived in California, and
I went to an outdoor education center with my
school for two weeks. And so it was called Walden
West and there are similar programs around here for three
to five days, a week long, but basically it’s for
sixth grade students. You go for a week or whatever
it is and you live in cabins with your classmates and you
learn about the environment. And so like these guys said, I
think it’s really about being out in the environment that
kind of sparks passion. And so actually right now
some of the initiatives we’re trying to do is
get Fairfax County. We know D.C. has an awesome
program where all fifth grade students can go for free to
an outdoor education center. We’re trying to build something
similar in Fairfax County and other places. But really it’s being
outside that sparked my interest, as well. Christy Goldfuss: Eugen, we
talk a lot about the drought around here and
certainly in California it’s changing the way
people look at water. Can you from your experience
and what’s happening in Nevada, can you talk at
all about changes that you’re seeing just in how
you think people handle water and what needs to
change in the future? Eugen Cotei: Yeah, of course. When I first got on that flight
here from Europe, you know, you noticed the obvious
difference that it’s dry. But you know, it’s a
desert so you can’t get any better than that. But in Las Vegas, Nevada,
we get all our water from the Colorado River and
there’s a Hoover Dam, which is a man-made lake,
and then Lake Mead. That lake has significantly
dropped and I’ve read so many statistics
that, you know, we’re going to run out of water by
2030 in Las Vegas, Nevada. And just people don’t
realize what’s going on. Everybody says,
“Oh, it’s so hot,” you know, “it only rains
three times a year.” And nobody really does
anything about it. So like I said, I try to go out
there in schools and educate these students and, you know,
they can take it to their parents and it can just
keep trickling down like a domino effect where
it does have an impact. Maybe it’s going to be
turning off your water for — while you’re
brushing your teeth. Even something like that
really does have an impact because there’s just so
many limited resources that we have available for us,
especially in Nevada. But now in California,
you know, that’s — it’s seen everywhere
across the country because we get so much produce
from California. And I have friends which just
tell me it’s so unbearably hot, you know, their crops in
their backyards aren’t flowering anymore, or they
don’t have enough water to water because of
the restrictions. So it’s really impacting
everybody and now that it’s even more of a problem, I think
the cities are taking more of an action to stop it
with use restrictions. But people also have to take
an interest and do something for themselves, as well. Robert Young: Do you mind
if I jump in on that? Christy Goldfuss: Of
course, please do. Robert Young: So I’m at the
World Resources Institute right now working on
the Aqueduct Project, which is a water risk mapping
tool for global water stress. And actually in my research that
I’ve been doing this summer, one of the really interesting
statistics is that 45 percent of total water
withdrawals in the U.S. are from thermoelectric
generation power plants. So that means that the Clean
Power Plan will actually have a big impact on our water
use, as well as our climate. And I think this brings up a
big point in climate education, which is that everything
is very interconnected. It’s climate, it’s energy,
it’s food, it’s water. So when we’re teaching
students and teaching us about climate, I think it’s really
important that we consider all the factors because you
never know what’s going to spark one student’s interest. If they enjoy kayaking
they’re going to care a lot more about water than
energy or a different side of the climate issue. Christy Goldfuss: That’s great. So to all of you — and just
jump in in a conversation style — what is the debate on your
campuses with your friends, with your family members? I mean, obviously you all
are leaders in this space, but there have to be
some people who question what you’re doing or
question your focus. And in your peer group area,
how do you respond to that? Jack, why don’t you start
and how do you get questions or is that just not even part
of the world around you? Do most people just agree
with what you’re doing? Jack Ruiz: Sometimes we
do hear questions saying, “What’s the point of
doing it if it’s going to happen anyway?” Or like, there’s always
got to be — people always say there’s always going
to be climate changes or there’s always going to
be something happening. But, anyway, we have to
tell them that it’s going to happen, but we have to
like decrease or just stop it all from actually
creating a really big thing that can have a bad impact. So I always tell people
sometimes like — because as we heard the whole
day, people always tell you, “Stop, you
can’t do anything.” And we have to like tell
them we actually can. We actually
have an impact. Us students, us
everybody in reality, can just step up and do
something and make a change for the better because that’s
pretty much what we’re here for, making the world a better
place than we found it. Christy Goldfuss: (affirmative) Eugen Cotei: Yeah,
I would like to add, yes students sometimes
are very skeptical, but from my own experience,
from my own high school, and around the valley, if
you don’t have the support of your faculty members
in school you will never get out there and
reach your students. Yes, of course, I can myself
go out there and try to make a big ordeal to the school
board, but if you don’t really get the interest
sparked in teachers, principals, you will never
have a recycling program, you will never have
curriculum, you will never have something that can
actually get out there to the students because most of
them don’t know what’s going on in the real world and most
of them are not educated on it. But if they did
have that one spark, it can really start
a fire and, you know, get a whole school all
excited to recycle or learn about this and
learn about that. And you might have
to go city-wide, you might have to go to
school board meetings, which is something I
plan to do just to make a more broad change. But like I said, if you
don’t have that principal’s approval, “Yes, you can do
this,” “Yes, I support you,” it doesn’t mean you’re
going to get money because you never — you don’t
need money to educate. If you don’t have it you’re
not going to get somewhere. And that’s just my
own personal belief and from the experiences
I’ve seen, that’s the truth. Christy Goldfuss: Robert, you
got something to add on that? Robert Young: Yeah,
I think I have a good experience
with that. We used to have power down
day at my high school. And there was one teacher
who would turn on all the heaters in his classroom
and turn on all the lights for power down day just
to kind of point out that he didn’t agree. (laughter) But the fact is that that
encourages discussion, it encourages you to actually
teach people the facts and teach them what’s really
going on in the world. And it helps you — I
think debate can actually foster an even better
educational environment. So in that case you can really
use that to your advantage and kind of show them,
“Well, no this is actually the truth and this is what
we’re doing about it,” and that youth
really can take action, take ownership over their
future to have an impact. Talia Schmitt: To add
on to what Robert said, I definitely agree with that
last part where debate can definitely influence things. And also it actually helps
you explain climate change. So I recently had someone that
Facebook messaged me and was like, “This doesn’t exist. This is not real.” And then I had to back myself
up and say, “You know what, it exists because
of these reasons. Here’s where you can
go to find out more.” So not only does it encourage
that debate but it encourages you to be better-equipped
to answer those questions. So there’s definitely positives
that come out of that. Christy Goldfuss: Do you ever
get discouraged that this is too big a problem, that
it’s too overwhelming, which is something that I hear
pretty regularly that this is depressing and we don’t want to
— we don’t necessarily want to have the President talking
about it all the time. It’s too depressing,
there’s not enough hope out there in terms of our
ability to tackle it. Jack Ruiz: Not at all, no
problem is too big for anyone. (laughter) Anyone — like
honestly it’s true. And like if you have
the support of everyone and everyone attempts to
make a solution and make a resolution, it’s
always going to happen. And no problem is big
for a true human spirit. Robert Young: I think you can
also see it as an opportunity. I mean, I’ve gone out to
Silicon Valley now and you see, I mean, there are
hundreds of clean-tech start-ups, right? And I think that
is trickling down to the high school
level, as well. As long as you see this an
opportunity instead of a challenge, or a challenge that
you can overcome and make the world an infinitely
better place by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,
improving our climate, that really empowers
you to take action. It just — it’s a shift
in your mind frame. Christy Goldfuss: Well we’re
hearing constantly from young students about what
their careers look like in the future and how tied
in clean-tech is or other climate change solutions. We had a challenge
here where we asked different entrepreneurs
to pitch business ideas. It was not connected
to climate change, but this was a bunch of
millennial-type entrepreneurs. And more than half of the
business proposals that came forward were connected
to climate change. So this is really driving
our economy overall and then career choices. So I’m wondering for you guys
how you see your future. What do you think you’re
going to be doing 10, 15, 20 years from
now, sitting here in the White House
somewhere making policy. Are you more interested in
the business side of this or what are you big
ambitions for yourselves? Eugen Cotei: Okay, well
just for your last question, the more someone tells me no,
the more I want to do it. Maybe it’s that
rebel side of me. (laughter) But when somebody
doesn’t want me to do it, I’m going to do it
and I’m going to be even more motivated. Christy Goldfuss: Good, good. Eugen Cotei: But I think that
the world is a changing place and it’s never going to get
perfect and that just leaves more room for improvement. If there are no jobs
right now for something about climate, there
will be in the future. If you have that one door
of opportunity to go into college, have, you know, even
a master and two degrees and still have that one
environmental aspect to it, you can never close the
door to the real world and the problems they’re going
within it because everything is tied to something else. I want to go into public
health and medicine, but that doesn’t mean
that I’m not going to be able to change in
the hospital I work at. It doesn’t mean
someone’s going to tell me, “No, you can’t
do this, you have to recycle this way or
you can’t recycle here.” I’ll be able to do
it, you know. It doesn’t matter
what you go into, it’s always going to come back
around to the same problem because it is such a global
and nationwide thing that it is a huge
problem in our world. Christy Goldfuss: Well in
the public health space specifically, we had several
deans of medical schools here not too long ago and started
this conversation of how do you teach climate change in
medical schools and how does it change how nurses
and doctors interact with their patients and
the questions they ask. And it was fascinating
because the deans were hearing from their
students that they needed to have more curriculum
in this space, but were struggling on what that
curriculum looked like. So by the time
you get to go — Eugen Cotei: Right, exactly. Christy Golfuss: —
through all of this, you’ll be driving some
of that conversation, I’m sure. (laughs). How about for
the rest of you? Jack Ruiz: What I see my
future very much is maybe possibly go into policymaking
and make a — so like, I just want to go to a place
where I can truly know I’m actually helping
somebody instead of trying like to take something
away from somebody. And that’s why I’m trying to
like hopefully enter a realm in which I’m able to make a
change and hopefully and have an impact on the environment,
as well, and I continue this — continue what
I’m doing right now. Talia Schmitt: Where
do I see myself? In a classroom probably. I want to be an educator,
so I really want to — (applause) I just — I think I get
inspired by young — like kids all the time. I just went into a — I
just did an (inaudible) lesson the other day. And, oh, it was so great. We had like all the different
trash and at the very end we had all the kids get in
groups and come up with different things that
they could use them for. And these kids like made
musical instruments out of the soda cans and
all sorts of stuff. And so things like that just
inspire me to keep doing this. So that’s where
I see myself. Robert Young: Yeah, I guess
I’ll round out the group with a whole different side. I think I’ve caught the
Silicon Valley bug, but I — (laughter) — kind of want to go
into entrepreneurship and it’s the same
entrepreneurship. I’m an electrical engineering
major at Stanford and I’ve realized that the computer
science majors — Stanford has one of the best computer science
departments in the world — but they aren’t involved
in sustainability. They don’t realize the
opportunity or there aren’t the resources for them to
get those opportunities. So I want to hopefully go
into some intersection of engineering, computer
science, and sustainability to create some of those
really cool solutions that can really impact the climate. Christy Goldfuss: Wonderful. Well you guy are
all so inspiring, I don’t want to
hog all the time. I think we have some time for
some questions in the audience if anybody has any. I’ll ask one more
just to let you think. But just anything that you
might want to ask these guys about their experience
and things that you could learn from, teachers
or students out there. So before we go to the
audience questions, what do you think for
yourselves that you’re most proud of now when you think
of the work that you’ve done? Obviously people pick out the
things that they think you should be recognized for, but
is there something you haven’t spoken about so far that
you really felt was a big step forward or is something
that you want to work more on and that you’re
really excited about? Jack Ruiz: I’ll elaborate
more — a little bit on my experience in Guatemala. I went to a really rural
village, like I said, and I met this mother of
five, quite sad she was going in poverty. And her name was
Donia Juana. And bringing that project
and showing her how to use it, seeing her children using
it, kind of brought a smile, not to my face, but to my
whole team’s face because we saw that our project
wasn’t just like an idea, it was a reality. It was something
that was applied. It’s something that I can
actually have an impact. And we took a video of it. I showed it to all of them. We saw the kids just
smiling, just having a great time in general. And that made me realize that
climate education is — can be fun, it can be entertaining, it
can be interesting and it can make it — it can be applied to
someone’s life in many ways. And going global for our
team was something that I’ll never forget and one of
the best memories I have. Talia Schmitt: Yeah.,
that’s awesome. (applause) This past summer we planned the
Fairfax County Environmental Education Conference, which
was a huge step forward for me and my team because with had
75 high school and college students there, the National
Wildlife Federation. And the biggest accomplishment
of the conference was that was completely student-driven,
student-run, student-organized. So just kind of seeing the
empowerment of student leaders, I think that was great. Eugen Cotei: Something that
really motivates me to be a better person and it’s not
necessarily my achievement, but it’s everybody’s
achievement. Last year when I went back
home to Europe just for a visit during the summer I
will never forget how much of difference there
was between about five or six years ago when
I would visit to now. There’s these big, huge
recycling bins everywhere and it’s now law that
they have to do this one certain way and
they cannot not do it. So I just think that how far
some people have actually come and now somebody
in Eastern Europe, with their closed mindsets
and their guarded stereotypes can change so much in such a
way just makes me incredibly happy that there is hope
and there always is hope. And yeah, it might not
necessarily be something that I started, I can just
continue to bring it forward to just other societies and
other communities anywhere that I travel. I’m a travel person. I love to travel. And I love just to see how
diverse people are and how this one thing can completely
change in just a matter of a few years, a few months. And it can have a
difference immediately. Robert Young: I think for me,
this is a little bit outside of climate change, but I co-founded a non-profit for STEM education called Project
Best during high school where high school students
go into middle schools and teach them about science
and technology through interactive programs. And we talked a little bit
earlier about how important STEM education is in
understanding climate change. So I think that it proves the
power of students teaching students, whether it’s high
school to middle school or college to high school or middle
school to elementary school. I think that students are able
to connect with their peers really, really strongly and
that is something that’s really powerful for the
climate change world, as well as STEM education. Christy Goldfuss:
Great, fabulous. How about out there? Anybody have any questions
for this impressive panel? Some hands. Ricky Torrence: How
are you guys doing? My name is Ricky Torrence. I’m an AP environmental
science teacher at Washington Latin here in D.C. You guys all have a
wealth of experience outside the classroom,
which I think is awesome. But I was wondering what
experiences did you have in the classroom
that impacted you? Eugen Cotei: I can
definitely start with that. (laughs). I don’t want to put a bad light
on my school because we’ve come so far, but I remember
in freshman year we just got the deny to know that
we cannot have our program, we cannot have what
we wanted to do, which was just change the
way that we were recycling. We were told no, but then
once we actually gathered up a couple of more people
and we showed the principal that we care and we want
to change and actually do something for the better,
it just completely changed and we just saw
this whole new side of this wonderful school. And I just think it’s so great
that it’s so easy to come and bring about change to
somebody’s mindset just by, you know, the voice that a
couple of young teenagers just came together and showed
them that experience, so. Christy Goldfuss:
So an openness — Eugen Cotei: Right, yeah. Christy Goldfuss: —
inside the school to — Eugen Cotei: It’s never — Christy Goldfuss:
— a new idea. Eugen Cotei: Yeah, a door never
closes, another just opens, so I just like to
think like that. Christy Goldfuss: And we
don’t have to go all down the line, so any other — Robert Young: I took a class in
college during my first quarter and it was called Energy in
the Industrial Revolution: Past, Present, and Future. And I got to visit
the Tesla plant, which was really incredible. And I think some of those
really cool field trips — Christy Goldfuss: Yeah. Robert Young: — can really
make an impact on students and help them to realize
the opportunities, as well as the challenges
in climate change. Talia Schmitt: Yeah,
just to reiterate that, I agree completely with
the field trip idea. Chesapeake Bay Foundation
has cool ones nearby, but even just
bringing them outside and doing some different
activities outside, I think those can all be
really great in engaging. So definitely try to
incorporate those. Christy Goldfuss: A challenge
for all the educators where field trips are getting
more and more difficult to have these days. That’s a very good point. Other questions? Leah Qusba: Hi, my
name’s Leah Qusba, I’m here with Melinda from the
Alliance for Climate Education. And this is about the
President’s announcement that he made on August 3
around the Clean Power Plan final rule that puts the
first ever regulations on carbon pollution from
our nation’s power plants. Robert, I know that you
testified at the EPA alongside some of your classmates in
support of a strong clean power plan and for the
other panelists as well, what do you guys think about
the new Clean Power Plan and, you know, the
President’s commitment to cutting carbon pollution
from our power plants? Christy Goldfuss: Well, we
know what Robert thinks. (laughter) Robert Young: Well I’ll tell
you, it’s absolutely necessary. Christy Goldfuss: Unless you’ve
totally changed your mind. Robert Young: No, it’s
absolutely necessary but it’s also not
totally sufficient. I think we need to go farther
in terms of investing in clean energy, reducing
fossil fuel subsidies. But we don’t have to go
too far into the politics, but I’ll let
everybody else talk. Jack Ruiz: It’s a great step
forward that shows how far — I’m sorry, excuse me. It’s a great step forward. It kind of shows how far
we’re actually going and this is not just like a thing
we’re just saying, we’re actually implementing it
and we’re actually doing it. Eugen Cotei: And I think it
provides hope that, you know, the United States is a
huge leader in the world for anything really
and it provides hope for other countries,
you know, to tag along. And maybe this is
just the beginning, but there’s also so many more
opportunities and so much more to come in the future that
can truly bring about change in this country and just
show other countries that, you know, we are doing
this and they should, too. Talia Schmitt: I think we
need to be excited about it, but we also need to be
skeptical and always keep ourselves on our toes
because what does that mean if you’re going away
from coal, you know, are you going towards
fracking and natural gas? So you need to sort of think
like that instead of — it’s great to celebrate
some things but also think about what the
alternatives are going to be and kind of the
plan for the next step. Christy Goldfuss: And the
strategy here all along was to demonstrate what we
could do on a domestic level heading towards the
negotiations that we have in Paris at the
end of the year. So leading by example, I
mean, the really historic agreements that were announced
between the United States and China really is
showing, okay, here’s what we can do on our
front and we are going to use every ink, every
little inch we have to push in this space to see if we can
get other countries to step up and to do their part,
as well, as it’s working. So that part, yes, we
need to be pushing more, but it will be interesting
to see over the next six months how these other
countries come along and how far we can take
this by the end of year. We have a hand over here,
two hands over here. Robin Organ: Robin Organ,
executive director of Green Schools. Also we are working to
get ready for Cop 21. We do our working with
friends and cut the red tape and friends in Paris, as
well as other countries. We have a student pledge, a
parent pledge to bring climate education home, as well as
the whole school community. So we’ll be working
and rolling things out as back-to-school happens
in just a few weeks. So we work with thousands of
schools across the country. And you all are highly
motivated to take classes, to do things in
the classroom, out of the classroom,
out in your communities. What are the best
engagement tools to reach your whole
school community? Is it at football games? Is it in the theater? Is it in the whole
school community? Is it through
investing in classes? Does it take — I mean, what’s
the formula for success to reaching not just the
student in the environmental chorus or their club, but how
do we start reaching the masses inside 133,000
public schools and more? Eugen Cotei: I think it
just has to some somewhere. When you see somebody — when
you see a group of students starting something and you
see their motivation and you see how they’re having fun
with it, other students are going to tag along
and before you know it, it’s the whole school. As long as it starts somewhere
and there’s just something that starts it, anybody — it can
be anybody — any student, it will have an impact
on everybody that sees that student do something. It will make them
want to tag along. Like Jack said, with his
project, which is amazing, some of these people come ask
him questions and information just gets spread out so
much on social media and all of the other outlets
that teens use nowadays. So as long as it starts
somewhere I think it has the potential to go anywhere else
and move further down the line. Talia Schmitt: I think just
making it highly visible, so like at our school — at my
school, at William and Mary, I’m really involved with the
sustainable food movement. And so we’ll do like
demos, like vegan cookies or something, out in the
cafeterias and that’s a public place where a lot of people
are going to be walk through. So regardless of whether or not
they’d previously been involved, allowing it in that public
space, public area, just making it very visible to
all the student population, you’re going to get some new
people who filter through. So I would say that
is one strategy. The second strategy is if
you’re a high school educator, reaching out to the
different clubs and focusing in on what their interest is
and how it can relate. So again, like the cereal
box folders, crafts, if you go to a very artistic
club like the Art Club or whatever, you could tie
that in really easily; same with theater, you could
do — like just tie in. So find what that
club’s interest is and find them kind
of a point in between. But use all of those
different clubs and you’ll get a lot
of different students. Christy Goldfuss: That’s — we
had heard that from some other college students because even
if folks are engaged in some other activity that they’re
really passionate about, you have a level of commitment
from those students that you don’t get from kids
who are not in the clubs. So we heard from other college
students that it was making that connection to other issues
through climate that you could really expand the
pool of people who are interested and understand
what we’re talking about. So it was interesting to
hear you say the same thing. Robert Young: I think there’s
a whole different set of organizations working on this,
but early nature education is really important. You notice that at least
three out of the four of us, and probably all four of
us had really important nature experiences early in
our lives that encouraged us to go into this field. So I think that
getting students early and getting them outside is
also really important. Jack Ruiz: It’s all
about that spark. If you find something a
student is passionate about, he’ll like he’ll do it and
he’ll go along with it. Don’t ever underestimate
a kid’s drive, honestly. Christy Goldfuss: So I can’t
miss this moment to just talk about one program that’s
starting in September because I was at the Park Service before
I had this job and this spark, this ability to reach kids
when they’re really young, you listen to Administrator
McCarthy talk about how when she was young she ran around
outside and would turn over a rock and there’s
a whole ecosystem there. And the challenge we
have now that kids, whether it’s because it’s not
safe to be outside or whatever the concern is, are not spending
as much time outdoors and don’t have that moment where
they really have the spark that excites this whole trend
of activity and education. So having that experience —
I also have two little kids and love watching them
outdoors because it’s just joy, just pure joy to
watch them discover. The President launched the
Every Kid in a Park Initiative, which will go live September 1,
and this will give every fourth grader in the country a free
pass to every national park, public lands, public waters,
across the country for the entire educational year. And we are building
out as much as we can, partnering with states,
partnering with aquariums, and schools to get the pass
out so that families can use it and then build out the
transportation because we know it’s such a challenge
to actually get kids to these places so that they
can have that experience. So it starts this year,
probably going to be a little rough as we work out some
of the kinks, but the pass will be available as of
September 1, and there will be a website So for any early education
outreach that any of you do, I would love, love and sort
of beg for your talk to your communities and your circles
to get the awareness out so that folks actually
go on and get the pass. And then we can get
transportation dollars to the schools, as well. All right, any other
last questions? I think we might be
— one in the back? Ted Keano: I’m Ted Keano, I’m
with Green Schools Alliance and am a student at
Princeton Day School. My question is if you
could teach one thing to every student
in the U.S. regarding climate, what would
it be and how would you do it? Christy Goldfuss: Good question. (laughter) Take notes on this one. You have like the — Robert Young: I think the
presentation we just saw is really, really cool
and also similar things. I mean, the NWS — the
NWF videos sound really, really cool, as well. But those kind of really
exciting, quick-paced, very visual materials are
really, really useful. And I think that
that’s the best way, or at least the best method
to get out to students. Jack Ruiz: I’ll add on that. Yeah, I agree with
Robert, as well, that (inaudible) did a
pretty good job on that, the whole DOT initiative,
that’s pretty easy and that’s pretty simple
and grab a kid’s attention and something like that
can have a big impact. And that’s all
that matters. Talia Schmitt: So it depends
on like kind of who you’re teaching to, but a lot of
times like documentaries are a great way, “Here’s
Living Dangerously” sounds amazing. But then also for really young
kids, like I mentioned before, greenhouse gas tag, like some
of these different games where you actually have
students pretending to trap the — the other students
who are solar energy trying to run back. (laughter) And so they’re — yeah,
like that’s what we do. And then afterwards
we’re like well, so what were you
representing? So know your audience, like know
who you’re trying to work with, but a game like that and then
talking about climate change and solutions and just
listening — having them talk to each to each because
I think that’s so cool. They have great ideas. Eugen Cotei: Well I guess
I’ll say something, too. But I couldn’t have
said it better myself. That presentation was just
phenomenal and I’m so — I’m kind of sad that I have
not heard about it until because it was very
well put together. And it was so easy,
and easy enough that, like I said, you just have to
start somewhere and that — sometimes all a kid
needs is the opportunity to do something and
they will do it. As far as what you can teach
somebody, just like she said, it only depends on if it’s
a high school student or a middle school student. If it’s in middle school,
start easy, start small, and show them that they can
make a change and maybe not show them all of the insane
results of climate change now, but show them that it
can have an impact. And, you know, once you
go to high school, show them that — the career
opportunities for this kind of field and show them what
they can do with their lives to better impact our
world as a whole. Christy Goldfuss: Incredible. You guys are so inspiring. And I just want to end
with a note about what’s ahead of us over the
next six months. I really do truly believe
that we will look back at this particular year
and what happened, not only coming out of the
White House here with the Clean Power Plan and
then the lead-up to Paris, but just where we are as a
nation at a turning point in how we look at climate change and
what it means for our country. And all of you are the
leaders that are going to pick up that baton and
make those changes real. But the Pope is coming to
the United States and will be addressing Congress
at the end of September. His encyclical has a huge
message about climate change and wildlife and the
impacts for the world. Then beyond that we will have
lots and lots of activities as we lead up to
conversation in Paris. But this is now becoming a
global effort and all of the work that you’re doing, all
of the work that you’re doing here, you are at the
precipice of not being alone, which is exciting,
and also really seeing the changes that we
all work so hard for. So thank you for everything
that you do today. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for all the friends
and people that you will bring along in this conversation this
year and well into the future. So thank you for
joining us today. (applause) Multiple Speakers: Thank you. Eugen Cotei: How could
you not be proud to live in the United
States right now? (applause)

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