by Kristina Hulvershorn, Director of Humane Education and Restorative Practices
February 27, 2017 was a big day for the youth of Indianapolis. On that day, our city passed a Climate Resolution, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use, and help make our city climate-change resilient. This resolution makes our city the largest in the country with a youth-led resolution of this kind. That’s right..youth-led. Youth of varying ages met with city councilors, helped with the language in the resolution, and gave speech after speech to their city council members, passionately articulating why we all need to pay attention to climate change.
City Council Vice President Zach Adamson, the sponsor of the resolution remarked “I am overjoyed to see our city take this important step in reducing our negative impact on our environment and stand as an example for our residents and other cities. I’m also grateful for the vision of our City Council and our mayor to make these critically important changes. I’m proud to have played a small role behind the extraordinary drive and effort of these young Hoosiers who will inherit the world we leave them.”
How did we get here? This group of youth became connected 3 years ago through a joint project of Peace Learning Center, HEART and Earth Charter Indiana. We had the idea of connecting youth concerned about this issue for a week-long summer camp. We offered them interactive and immersive humane education opportunities to deepen their understanding of the issues as well as the opportunities we all have to make change. It has snowballed (no climate-pun intended) into something that is really quite amazing. The youth have taken what they have learned and are applying it in varied and wonderful ways. Aside from the Climate Resolution, youth have been connected to a number of policy initiatives. We also have a number of youth who have started groups at their own schools to tackle school policy and practices like recycling. We have youth who have taken the initiative to give to their peers what helped them get to where they are- humane education learning opportunities on the subject of climate change! Youth have created games, reenactments, plays, and songs to educate others. One of our fifth graders actually asked her principal if she could present to a couple hundred of her classmates on climate change. In her free time she created a presentation and even handled it like a champ when the presentation technology didn’t work. Humane education is a powerful thing.
You might find yourself wondering what does climate change have to do with peacemaking? Because I don’t have 10,000 words to spare, I’ll try to distill it down to a few key points.
Our path is not sustainable. Sustainability isn’t shorthand for “please recycle.” It refers to our planet’s ability to literally sustain humankind. It’s about survival of our species. I speak for most parents, I assume when I say that we would like for our children to inherit a planet where they can live healthy and peaceful lives.
The stakes of peacemaking will continue to get higher. Scarcity of resources brought on by climate change will create new conflicts, new battle lines, and greater inequity. If we have the chance to avoid all of that suffering and pain, why wouldn’t we?
It’s all connected. The root causes of racism, sexism, environmental degradation, animal abuse, and many other forms of oppression as we know them, are all rooted in the same systems. If we can begin to understand the interconnected nature of these struggles, then we can begin to free ourselves from them and generate true equity and sustainability.
It’s time to “Listen to the wisdom of the youth” (one of our key Climate Camp tenants.) Giving youth an understanding of the issues that affect humans, animals, and the planet as well as the tools to affect change are at the core of our work. We have a lot of work ahead of us but as these kids have proven, we can make a difference!