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Wild Center Program And Local Student Featured At White House Climate Summit

Sally McCay/UVM Photo
Gina Fiorile

The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit and the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York, were featured at a recent White House event on climate change education.

The White House launched the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative in 2014 to link students to science-based information on climate change.  Last Thursday the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a Back-to-School Climate Education summit in Washington.

The keynote event was webcast and featured National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Kathryn Sullivan.  “Climate literacy and understanding  of some of the dynamics of our planet and how it works and how that translates into impacts and consequences for families and communities and people – climate literacy is front and center in dealing with global issues.”

Following her introductory speech she sat down for a “Fireside Chat.”  On stage with Sullivan and moderating the discussion was University of Vermont sophomore Gina Fiorile.
[Gina Fiorile]  “How do you best reach audiences so that they understand what climate change is?”
[Kathryn Sullivan] “I tend to actually start with things they’re interested in and care about and show how climate links to that.”

Fiorile has helped plan the Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Summit and was named a “Champion of Change for Climate Education and Literacy” by the White House in February.  She says her generation will have to deal with the impacts of climate change.   “There’s definitely a lot of momentum happening right now and it’s great that we have the White House’s support with our climate education initiative.  They’re also trying to help us build that momentum and a big part of that is including students in the conversation, which was what the event was all about.  And including other federal agencies, like NOAA,  in the conversation because really grassroots efforts are often quite effective but also getting help from up above, NOAA and some other federal agencies and the White House, is really strengthening the movement.”

The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit began in 2009. It was designated  a project of distinction by the White House last December.   Wild Center Director of Programs Jen Kretser also attended the summit.   “ The Youth Climate Summit is really unique  because it really asks students to step up into a youth leadership role.  We are now working with communities across the U.S. to do youth summits.  Currently we’re working with a group in Seattle, a group in Detroit, another group in southern New York State in the Catskills, continuing our work in Vermont and we have other states that are interested in starting youth climate summits.  So when you listen to youth talk and you participate in things like our Youth Climate Summit event or the White House Back-to-School Climate Education event you really feel hopeful.”

The White House Back-to-School Climate Education Summit was attended by nearly 200 students, educators and scientists studying the impacts of climate change.

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