Seniors host climate change panel

Seniors+host+climate+change+panel

By Tiffany He, Co-Managing Editor

From teen climate activist Greta Thunberg to the thousands of students who took part in the Global Climate Strike in Philadelpia this September, students around the globe are raising awareness about the health of the planet and ongoing climate change. 

Spurred by the work of students their age, seniors Anisa Williams and Jenny Li decided to take action. On Nov. 16, the pair hosted the Youth Against Climate Change Panel at the Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr to bring this movement to the Main Line.  

“We felt like the Main Line wasn’t very active in this department,” Williams said. “Climate change isn’t something that is really tangible on the Main Line; other than the temperature rising a couple degrees, you don’t really notice it. There isn’t an outlet for it, so we wanted to provide that outlet through the panel.” 

According to Li, one of the main purposes of the panel was to inspire students. In addition to students from ’Stoga, students from the Shipley School, Haverford High School, Garnet Valley High School and the Haverford School also attended, totaling 30 participants.

“I think a lot of people — including me, before — thought that since we’re not eighteen yet, we can’t vote or anything, but one of the purposes of this panel and walk is to empower the youth and have them realize that they can make a difference,” Li said. 

Local sustainability expert Jen Anderson moderated the event, speaking alongside four other panelists. Before beginning the panel, Anderson emphasized the urgency of the issue and the important role that students play to preserve the environment for future generations. 

“You may have heard the phrase ‘the window of opportunity is closing’ on making change that will dramatically affect climate change,” Anderson said.  “When we say that it’s closing, it’s really about a millimeter away from being closed. We are really at the point where it is dire to act.”

Panelist Hayden Remick, a graduate student in sustainable design at Thomas Jefferson University, explained the severity of even the smallest changes in the climate.  

“If you think of the earth as an organism, as a child who has a fever that increased four degrees, that child is in the hospital. It seems like a small number, but it is actually much more significant,” Remick said.  

Next, Daniel Fernandez, a freshman at Swarthmore College, spoke about the importance of recognizing climate change as a pressing issue in local communities.

“In history, all the events of great social progress for our society have only come when a lot of people have stood and recognized crises as crises,” Fernandez said. “Things like slavery weren’t a crisis until abolitionists called it a crisis, things like sexism and discrimination weren’t a crisis until feminists called it a crisis, and things like segregation weren’t a crisis until the civil rights movement called it a crisis. The climate movement will not be a crisis unless we call it a crisis.”

To provide student input, Williams and Li invited a member of the Greening ’Stoga Task Force, senior Eleanor VanRheenen, to speak at the panel. One of the major focuses in Greening ’Stoga Task Force this year has been instituting greener practices in the cafeteria.  

“This has been a long process, so it is a big victory for us. We hope to eventually have reusable plates and trays in the cafeteria and are working on that now,” VanRheenen said.  

Panelist Jess Cadorette, the Chester County Director for Conservation Voters of PA, pushed students to reach out to their local governments by signing petitions, writing letters, scheduling meetings and voting for sustainability-conscious candidates.  

“In Pennsylvania, we are lucky enough that our state constitution has a line that protects our right to free air and clean water and the preservation of our open spaces, so we need to make sure we are protecting that,” Cadorette said.  

Members from the Conestoga New Voters club also attended to register eligible voters participating in the event and encourage them to vote for candidates that put the environment at the forefront of their agendas. 

“With climate change becoming more of a pertinent and urgent issue today, the youth are recognizing that the issues discussed on the ballot today will impact their future,” club president, senior Vidya Patel, said.

After the panel, attendees participated in a walk through the streets of Bryn Mawr. With hand-drawn signs reading “The future is in our hands” and “There is no Planet B,” students advocated for a greener future, waving at drivers who honked in agreement as they drove past.  

Williams is excited to see the changes that are taking place at ’Stoga.  

“What’s happening with ’Stoga right now is amazing, but that needs to be continually happening,” Williams said. “Students in high school and college need to (be) observant of how much plastic intake there is, how much meat you’re eating, how much styrofoam you’re using. It’s kind of the smaller things, but when those things add up, it makes a huge difference.”