Building a greener future | IER Indiana Environmental Reporter

Writer Mary Hiatt is a senior at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech in Columbus, Indiana.

On September 16, 2022, student-led climate justice group Confront the Climate Crisis, in partnership with Earth Charter Indiana, hosted a climate policy conference at the Indiana Interchurch Center in Indianapolis. About 120 people took part, almost half of whom were high school students. [Disclosure: conference co-host Earth Charter Indiana is also the program sponsor for Youth Environmental Press Team.]

Numerous speakers provided insights, including Guidon Design, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Citizens Action Coalition, Indiana Forest Alliance and many more. They looked at issues such as the recycling of building materials, reducing the use of fossil fuels in large manufacturing companies, corporate sustainability and reducing energy consumption in buildings.

The first speaker and host, Rahul Durai, a high school junior and co-founder and co-executive director of Confront the Climate Crisis, described the organization’s purpose. The group includes students from dozens of schools across Indiana working to address the climate emergency. A primary focus of the organization is to inform and educate the Indiana state legislature on climate issues.

These young advocates are aware that the global problem of climate change will not get better unless people actively work to solve it. This includes tackling the causes of climate change, such as reducing CO2 emissions from transport, energy and buildings. By working with stakeholders in Indiana, CTCC hopes to make a real difference.

Breylin Stewart, a junior at CSA New Tech who attended the conference, said: “There are so many solutions to reducing pollution in our ecosystem that I can think of right now. It’s just one of the things the world around us likes to avoid.”

Questions arise. what can be done How much time is left before things get drastically worse? When will people realize they can’t run away anymore?

CAC’s Ben Inskeep spoke at the conference about the benefits of solar power in schools. Photo by Chenyao Liu.

A conference to change the world

Sarah Mincey, executive director of IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute, spoke via Zoom about ERI’s work in Indiana. Mincey said the amount of damage done to our environment cannot be fully reversed, but some of it could be reversed.

“Indiana is getting warmer and wetter,” Mincey said. “Temperatures are rising and rainfall is increasing, causing a multitude of problems. The decline of the winter season is upon us if we continue ignorantly every day.”

Mincey emphasized that lower-income communities are unable to flee the effects of climate change. Equality is impossible to achieve when man-made pollution affects low-income families and communities around them. This is rapidly shifting from an environmental issue to issues of political and economic justice.

In his presentation, Ben Inskeep of the Citizens Action Coalition explained how schools in Indiana could benefit enormously from solar energy. Inskeep also encouraged the transition from traditional lighting to LED; He therefore emphasized not only renewable energies but also energy efficiency.

Ahan Bhattacharyya, a junior at Terre Haute High School, also spoke at the conference.

A student from Terre Haute High School, Ahan Bhattacharyya, also spoke at the conference. Last summer, Bhattacharyya was an intern for Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, who asked him to write a report on the city’s recent greenhouse gas footprint, a precursor to a climate action plan. Bhattacharyya presented the report and how it can help his city be better prepared for the climate crisis.

Make a change

Bridget Steele, CSA New Tech environmental science teacher and mentor who brought new tech students to the conference, said, “If more people would just listen to what we have to say, the differences could be seen now.”

CSA New Tech environmentalist and senior Savannah Steele said, “I will continue to attend these events until I am physically unable.”

Looking around the room, this author saw many impressive students and advocates. It was an amazing opportunity to hear these people speak about the very real concerns around us today. We are all aware that ignoring this will not go away.

What we can do is take steps to make it less harmful. We can reduce the damage we cause if we only take it seriously.
CTCC’s Rahul Durai concluded, “We know that the State of Indiana can be a leader in reversing emissions and pursuing climate solutions, and we’re excited more than ever to continue working with people like you for Indiana’s future!” “

To learn more about Confront the Climate Crisis, visit the website.

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