Gina Fiorile is being honored as a Climate Education and Literacy Champion of Change.
It is an honor to be selected as a White House Champion of Change because I am representing countless students and youth leaders who work tirelessly to combat climate change.
My generation is one of subtle controversy. Recent advances in technology have been openly accepted by youth, and because of this, we have become the most social generation in history. Our interconnectedness may come with a few negative effects, but there are also significant positive outcomes that result from our social nature. We are more mindful, more aware, and have more opportunities to support each other.
My passion for climate education began in high school, where I became involved in the annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. This two-day conference is held at a local science museum where students from across the Northeast gather to learn about climate change and create climate action plans to implement in their schools. Not only do students have the opportunity to learn from renowned climate scientists, but they are also able to build a community around their environmental passions and connect socially. This summit changed my life in that it inspired me to dedicate my career to the cause. It also opened the eyes of thousands of students. It is has been adopted as a model for similar programs across the country as part of the White House’s Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, and has spread internationally. My peers and I had the opportunity to be featured in a PBS documentary titled “The Resilient Ones,” which followed us throughout the planning process. After my experience at the Summit, I was inspired to take on a number of projects including waste reduction, the building of a greenhouse and school garden, the local farm-to-school movement, and communications with the community. My work and motivation is an example of the outcomes of successful climate education.
I do not believe it is a coincidence that the generation I am a part of has arrived at the same time in history as human-induced climate change. We now have the tools we need to communicate the effects of climate change and fully understand the science behind it. We have the capacity to build a network around climate science and climate education in the battle for sustainability.
It is time we take advantage of the opportunities we have created for ourselves to fight this battle with full force. An attitude of realism as opposed to negativity is what will carry us through. It is important that we look to future generations as a source of hope when we feel discouraged by setbacks on the road to sustainability. Our greatest defense in this fight is an increase in climate literacy, so that future leaders are better prepared to catalyze positive change.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we have faced because it is an issue that will impact every single human being and living thing now, and for millions of years to come. If this is the case, how can we not do everything in our power to combat it? In accepting our responsibility to educate future generations by utilizing all of the resources we have, the next generation will be more capable to combat this challenge. They are a source of hope during this period of ecological and social change.
Gina Fiorile is a freshman Environmental Studies Major in the Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.