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Climate Science in Schools: the Next “Evolution”

An Oakland group vows to keep climate science in the classroom.

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Some science teachers face opposition from students, parents and even administrators when they teach basic climate science.

As the climate change debate creeps into classrooms across the country, an Oakland non-profit vows to stem the tide of climate denial in California. They also plan to conduct a comprehensive review of science textbooks to help teachers separate the sound from the shaky in climate science.

The Oakland-based National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has announced that it will now offer support to teachers facing resistance to climate science in the classroom, similar to their long-standing work to keep the instruction of evolution in schools. “We’ve already had a couple of calls along the lines of, ‘I know you guys do evolution, but I’ve got this problem with [teaching] climate change and do you have any suggestions for me,’” said Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of NSCE.
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Climate: The Next Generation

What do they want? Climate Justice! When do they want it? You guessed it.

Young activists are taking to the streets to call for immediate action against climate change.

Young people rallied for climate action on Mothers' Day in San Francisco and ten other California cities and towns. (Photo: Chris Penalosa)

Youth turned out in eleven cities across California over the weekend in a series of coordinated demonstrations.

Dubbed the i-Matter marches, youth from Eureka to San Diego and from grammar school to college, demanded “climate justice” for their generation. The marches follow a recent lawsuit filed by young people against the Federal government and all 50 states, to force more aggressive reductions of greenhouse gases. Continue reading

California Climate Champions Abroad

Jason Bade

Jason Bade Photo by: Karen Codazzi Pereira

Jason Bade is a 2009 California Climate Champion from Foster City, who graduated from Aragon High School in June.  In this post, Bade reports on his trip to Germany earlier this month, where he met with other young activists from across the globe, to discuss strategies for combating climate change.

World Youth Coalesce Around Climate Goals

By Jason Bade

Greetings from Stuttgart, Deutschland! I’m here attending the UNESCO World Youth Festival. Essentially the festival is a chance for youth from all over the world to exchange ideas and culture as well as to be educated on particular issues affecting the world.

For two of the days, there was a World Youth Congress, which focused on energy and climate change. I was one of fourteen International Climate Champions from six countries who came to help lead the climate change workshops, speak at the opening ceremony, and formulate the Stuttgart Declaration [PDF], the ultimate goal of the conference.

On Wednesday evening, several ICCs and I spent time with staff from the festival to formulate all the ideas born in the workshops into that single, cohesive document. In it, we detail a call to action from the youth of the world to the business community, the science community, our elected leaders, and ourselves, in which we expound on what we feel must be done by each respective group, in order to effectively combat and adapt to climate change. The Declaration was then presented on Friday to a local representative from each of those communities in Stuttgart.

While the document itself may contain no groundbreaking concepts, the fact that such a diverse crowd of youth assembled to discuss solutions to these problems–without attention to national pride, patriotism, or selfishness–is significant. Regardless of the actual substance produced on paper, the real benefits of this festival are the connections and friendships made among youth of such myriad cultures. It is when people have these experiences early in their lifetimes that they grow up to treat and respect others’ cultures with zeal unseen in those who have only been confined to their own people. It was an experience I wish others could only be so lucky to enjoy!

California Climate Champions: Project Carpool

Patrick Ouziel

Photo by: Patrick Ouziel

Devin Finzer is a 2008 California Climate Champion from Orinda who graduated from Miramonte High School in June. In this guest post for the Climate Watch blog, he describes how he and fellow Champion Patrick Ouziel were able to start a carpooling program at his school.

Walking to my high school each morning, I trekked past long lines of backed-up traffic. Driver after driver waited anxiously for his or her chance to round the corner into the Miramonte High School lot and hunt for a coveted parking spot. For the most part, each car contained just one person. The passenger seats of large SUVs and mini-vans were often left completely empty. The early-morning situation involved stress, traffic congestion, and unnecessary pollution. Fellow student Patrick Ouziel and I decided we could do something about it.

As California Climate Champions sponsored by the California Air Resources Board and the British Council, Patrick and I are engaged in local and international efforts to take action and spread awareness about climate change. One of the main environmental issues we noticed at our high school was the way students get around. With after-school sports and club activities, juniors and seniors take advantage of their newly earned driver’s license, but by driving only themselves, they often missed out on easy, cost-beneficial, and eco-friendly ways to group together with other students traveling their same route.

Patrick and I are proud to have lobbied for the expansion of our school’s carpool system, which provides carpoolers with designated parking spots each morning. During the school year, we produced several videos promoting eco-friendly transportation and climate awareness, and linked these videos to a web site where students could demonstrate their support for increasing the percentage of carpool spots at our school. We also provided an option where students could sign up as “potential carpoolers” in order to find other ride-sharers who lived close by.

The result?  With the support of students and the administration, we transformed our parking lot reserved for high school seniors into a lot exclusively for carpoolers. Now 80 spots, about 30% of our entire lot, are reserved exclusively for carpoolers.

What are the environmental benefits for the new program? While differing gas mileages and travel distances make exact calculations difficult, we do know that carpooling with just one other person already cuts per-person emissions, as well as gas costs, in half, and we can estimate that our carpool system inspired about 40 additional carpool groups.

While deciding to carpool almost seems almost like a no-brainer, Patrick and I did face significant barriers when we emphasized the importance of ridesharing. From the get-go, one of the main obstacles we had to address was the relationship between driving and teenage independence. Every sixteen-year-old remembers the day he earns his license: the fresh feeling of the driver’s seat and the thrill of taking the wheel, free from parental supervision. Americans clearly love to drive, and apparently, many of us love to do it by ourselves — a 2005 U.S. Census Bureau survey says 77 percent of American workers drive to and from work alone.

In our awareness videos, Patrick and I emphasized that carpooling doesn’t have to be a sacrifice of this independence. Rather, it can be an effective symbol of collaboration: sharing a ride is an opportunity to spend time with friends, or to get to know new people. Teenagers are social beings who feel most content when they are connected with their peers. That’s why we emphasized the importance of a collective carpool movement built on the strong sense of community at our school.

Advocating carpooling can be a great way to start a green movement at your own school or workplace. There are a number of web sites that match potential carpoolers and make ridesharing easy. I’ve reviewed a few of the better-known ride-matching sites on my blog.

Patrick and I will both be going to school on the East Coast next year, Patrick at Yale and myself at Brown. We plan to continue our climate change activism. In particular, I’d like to encourage the installation of solar panels on the roofs of high schools and universities. Our continued environmental efforts will be documented on my blog.

Special thanks to Climate Watch intern Kristine Wong for help with this post.

Climate Change: The Next Generation

California's 2009 Climate Champions in Sacramento. (April 27, 2009)

California's 2009 Climate Champions in Sacramento (April 27, 2009) Photo by Amanda Dyer

Don’t let anyone convince you that today’s teenagers  are all too busy watching Gossip Girl to notice what’s going on the world.   At least some of them are all too aware that they’ll be inheriting whatever their elders leave them in the way of climate policy–a promising start or a global Gordian knot.

So, in Sacramento on Monday, California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols witnessed some thoughtful, engaged, youth-in-action as she fielded sophisticated questions from the newly-inaugurated 2009 California Climate Champions.

Over lunch, these ten high school students asked Nichols about the  future of electric cars in the state, how to help low-income Californians reduce emissions, the availability of renewable energy sources, and how CARB is dealing with political resistance to California’s Global Warming Solutions Act,  AB 32.

Mark Bessen, a 2009 Climate Champion from Palos Verdes High School in Rolling Hills Estates, asked Nichols how society can translate science into political action.

“That is the secret of life,” she replied.

Now in it’s second year, the California Climate Champions program selects high school students from across the state to serve as educators about global warming and to “champion” projects that address climate change issues in their own communities.

This year’s students are planning a diverse set of projects that include alternative fuels, solar power, water conservation, and large-scale composting.  For example, Nicholas Dahlquist  from Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead plans to use chemistry to explore the potential for powering school buses with waste vegetable oil.

“The idea is to take used vegetable oil from deep frying and convert it into a fuel you can use in any diesel engine,” said Dalquist. “The process is relatively straightforward.” Currently, using vegetable oil as a diesel fuel requires some engine modification.

The challenge, he says, is getting people to actually use the fuels, so raising awareness about alternative fuels and working with local transportation authorities to explore possibilities are both aspects of his project plan.

“Biodiesel from waste oil, unlike biodiesel in general, does not require food crops in order to create it.  It’s basically a renewable resource that would otherwise be waste,” he said.

Other champions include Soraya Okuda, a student at Lowell High School in San Francisco, who is working to establish a composting system at San Francisco State University and at the nearby Stonestown Galleria. Another, Jason Bade, from Aragon High School in Foster City,  plans to lobby cities to develop programs that help homeowners purchase and install rooftop solar panels.

Read about the rest of the 2009 Climate Champions and check in on the progress of last year’s Champions and their projects at www.climatechamps.org.