Students encourage Richmond Common Council to act now on climate issues
RICHMOND, Indiana— Richmond Common Council members cheered on students supporting a climate-related resolution Monday night.
Youth Climate Action Team Members, however, hope councilors will provide even more affirmation by adopting the six-point resolution with overarching goals of reducing carbon emissions, increasing energy efficiency, boosting the use of renewable energy and building a city resilient to climate change.
“They were awesome – so confident, so poised and they knew what they wanted,” said Alison Zajdel, who worked with the students. “They did a great job. I’m really, really proud of them.”
Earlham College the students started the resolution project 18 months ago, and then the younger students began meeting in February with Zajdel, resilience coordinator for Earth Charter Indiana and a member of the Richmond Environmental Commission. They analyzed and refined the work of Earlham students, spoke individually with board members, and then presented to the board at Monday’s meeting.
Board Chairman Larry Parker has referred the resolution to the Finance Committee for review, and then it will be forwarded to the Board for review. The students plan to be at the council meeting on May 18. Before that, they will acquire climate action plans that other Indiana cities have in place to show councilors. Zajdel said the development of a climate action plan is included in Richmond’s overall plan.
The student team members are truly dedicated to environmental issues, Zajdel said. Some are already involved in environmental activities and may be likely to pursue environmental careers.
The students went through the Earlham students’ draft resolution line by line, Zajdel said, deciding what was important to keep and what could be set aside. They then appropriated the project for their presentations.
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“They know how they feel and they’ve done research to prove it,” Zajdel said. “We need more people to talk.”
Students Hannah Jensen-Sizelove, Maggie Zajdel, Landon Hasecoster, Mary Jetmore, Evie Lerner, Jeremy Roberts and Lizzy Graham addressed the council. Alex Gray and Lede Rios also attended the reunion in support.
The six points of the resolution are:
- Adopt a climate action plan by the end of 2021;
- Hire a sustainability coordinator to manage and implement programs and ensure goals are met;
- Implement strategies to improve infrastructure and transportation modes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- Use data from a tree inventory to set planting goals and update requirements and guidelines;
- Ongoing financial support for initiatives and activities promoting reuse, recycling, composting, carbon footprint reduction; that ensure water and air quality standards; and that promote local food systems; and
- Engage community leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, youth leaders, community members and elected officials in developing and implementing a climate action plan.
The students directed these points to counselors, and an appendix to the resolution document provides counselors with additional details on each point.
Jetmore, a freshman at Richmond High School, said she’s noticing the climate change through more intense rains, more April snowfalls and hotter summers.
“I’ve always noticed things when I’m outside,” she said. “When I was little it was the feel of the grass under my bare feet and the smell of the air just before it rained. Now there are times when I can appreciate those good things , but I also find myself seeing the negative and seeing the things that are caused by climate change.
She also noted that the heat is impacting residents who don’t have access to the air conditioning she enjoys on hot summer days. Jetmore said the climate action plan will be a roadmap for the city and the year-end deadline will follow through.
“This resolution and the accompanying climate action plan will help the environment and do what the young people of Richmond want,” she said, referring to the results of a survey of 90 young people from the area. city.
Roberts, an HRH junior, told advisers the sustainability coordinator would continue to advocate for actions that would help future generations.
“All of this is extremely important to me because I think it will affect my future,” he said.
Although concerned about air quality, Roberts admitted he was driving.
“Every time you turn on the ignition in your car, you release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” he said.
Roberts then spoke about the health risks caused by polluted air and the ever-increasing demand for fuels. He said Richmond, which has five solar fields, must continue to expand the use of clean and renewable energy.
Lerner, a seventh grader at Richmond Friends School, said the city could reduce carbon emissions by facilitating alternative modes of transport, such as bicycles and buses.
“I have to cycle to school every day,” she said. “But I can’t take the quickest and most convenient route because there are no sidewalks or the sidewalks aren’t very nice.”
She said some sidewalks are bumpy and cracked. She also noted that more buses and bus routes would be helpful “because Richmond is quite big and you can’t cycle everywhere.”
Lerner was also concerned about protecting the area from flooding.
Hasecoster, a kindergartener from Crestdale Elementary, held up a design he had done, and he was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the same design.
“I made an invention that cleans up trash in water and on land, so animals don’t get stuck in trash,” he said.
Maggie Zajdel, an eighth grade student at Richmond Friends School, noted that a lot of environmental information is posted on social media.
“We all know social media isn’t always the most reliable source,” she said.
Zajdel was concerned about the increase in heat and responded to the need for trees that act as a natural air conditioner and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
“When the days start to get hotter and hotter until we have more 95 degree days than we can handle, that’s when we know we haven’t acted. soon enough,” she said.
Jensen-Sizelove, a sophomore at RHS, said students look to adults and government for leadership. Students are turning off lights, composting, recycling and carpooling to help the climate, she said.
“I am personally working with other Richmond High School students to start a Green Club at Richmond High School,” Jensen-Sizelove said.
She also advocated for continued support for the Richmond Farmer’s Market and solar farms, as well as recycling.
“The Farmers Market provides support for farmers in Richmond,” Jensen-Sizelove said. “Solar fields promote renewable energy.”
Graham, who is a freshman HRS student, said the impacts of climate change are often factored in on a huge scale, but not on a local level for smaller communities such as Richmond. She said 26% of young people in Richmond live in poverty, so they are exposed to environmental toxins and inadequate nutrition.
The city, Graham said, should act now to prepare for the economic and public health impacts that climate change will bring.
“If you act now, you are giving Richmond an edge with the economic opportunities associated with environmentally responsible businesses,” she said. “It also sends a clear message to businesses and families considering relocating to Richmond (that) we are a community committed to the health and well-being of all.”
A variety of community members should be involved in creating a climate action plan, Graham said.
“The climate action plan is not just to help the world, but to help young people in the community,” she said.