An important part of Residents Forward’s mission is to educate local residents on what they can do in their own lives to help the environment. That message is being tailored specifically for a high school audience at the group’s first-ever youth climate summit, to be held at the Port Washington Library on Saturday, April 28.
“Climate change is one of the biggest issues for younger generations, and being on a peninsula, we are particularly vulnerable,” said Mindy Germain, executive director of the group, formerly known as Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. “We’re trying to move the conversation with our youth away from fear to proactive action.”
The goal, she said, was to inspire young adults to discover what they can do to help. The keynote speaker will be Dr. John Byrne, who serves as president of the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment and a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Germain said that Residents Forward’s co-president Rick Krainin had worked with Byrne in the past and was able to convince him to speak at the summit.
After the speech, several workshops will be held examining waste, food production and the pollution of water, among others. The workshops will each tackle a specific issue and then help the students come up with ideas on what they can do to help.
“For example, the workshop on food is about starting a conversation that they have the ability to shape the food industry of the future,” Germain said. “They will learn what it means to eat locally grown foods compared to those farmed in a more factory-like way and transported over long distances, and the energy and effort it takes to mass-produce food.”
But the education would not end with the climate summit.
“The summit is not just about educating students, it’s about helping them develop projects that they will work on for the rest of the year,” Germain said. “These will help with climate change and help spark further conversations in our community.”
Sticking with the topic of food, she said that one example of a project would be creating a garden at the high school, growing food that could be eaten by the gardeners or donated to a food bank.
“It’s one of the most exciting parts,” Germain said. “We are putting together the team of outside guidance that will be accessible to these students as they embark on these projects, and we will being working with them over the next year.”
Attendance is limited to 100 students in grades 8 to 12. Applications are due by March 30 and can be completed on the group’s website at pwresidents.org/programs/youth-climate-summit.