By El’ad Nichols Kaufman
There’s frequently talk about climate change going on in the background, but despite being one of the most pressing issues of today, it rarely comes to the forefront of discourse. A group of dedicated Shortridge students is trying to change that.
The Diplomatic Corp, together with other student advocates and in partnership with Earth Charter Indiana, an environmental non-for-profit, has put together a climate emergency resolution calling for immediate action on climate change, which they are trying to get as many students and staff members as possible to sign. The resolution currently has over 40 signatures, with many more coming. This kind of resolution has only been brought forward at 11 schools before, and Shortridge would be the first in the state to make this much needed call for climate action. It has also been adopted by the Student Government unanimously.
Lizzie Perkins, a junior, has been leading the charge in this effort. Together with the Shortridge Diplomatic Corp and other student activists, she has developed the climate emergency resolution, built a climate activism focused lesson plan for her speech and debate class and helped organize a “chalk out” on March 17th, where students came by the school to write messages on the sidewalk in front of the school. “I want people to get excited,” Perkins explained, “to see that it’s possible for students to make a difference.” She hopes to use this momentum to get students moving and hold policy makers accountable.
The enthusiasm was certainly shared by many of the students attending the “chalk out.” Roman Moreno, a senior said that this really was a sign of the impact students could make. “The biggest change begins with small people. Fighting to be heard is our generational struggle.” Jaret Camargo, also a senior, agreed, and pointed out what could be done in our own school with work from students. “There’s so much we can do, even at Shortridge. I mean, Shortridge doesn’t even recycle.” Still, Bree Turner, senior, said that the school is moving forward. “We had it in speech class, the climate work, we need action.”
Abby Schelbecker, a senior who was also at the chalk out, has a lot of experience in climate advocacy, having been involved since eighth grade, and having been an intern at Earth Charter Indiana last year. She got into advocacy because the situation is so bad now, that the responsibility for drastic action has fallen on our generation. “The fact that the next generations won’t experience the earth as I do, I’d feel guilty to leave the planet to die.” She has been involved in bringing green energy to Shortridge, trying to arrange solar panel installation. “We already have the roof assessed… The school would pay for the panels gradually with the money we’d save from electricity.”
Jim Poyser, the executive director of Earth Charter Indiana, reflected on the impact that students are having on the wider community. “If you get young people involved, then the parents or grandparents have to come along as well.” He noted that there’s a lot of progress being made locally, but none of it really matters unless the General Assembly makes serious policy changes at the state level. Shannon Anderson, Earth Charter’s assistant director, said that one of the best ways for high school students to make an impact is to contact their legislators. Even though most Shortirdge students have state senators and representatives who believe in climate change, you still have to “press your legislators to take a more active role. Ask them, what can I do to help?” Legislators are often happy to hear from young people, and are more than willing to help you get involved.