[Updated] A film crew from UNICEF was on campus Oct. 26 to film Harker’s various green installations, including Smart Meters at the lower school, and to interview Shreya Indukuri and Daniela Lapidous, both Gr. 10, about the grant they received (see below). The film will be used as the U.S. portion of a documentary by UNICEF on youth activism in global climate change.
The students had attended the Governors’ Global Climate Summit co-hosted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Los Angeles, as two of 25 climate youth leaders.
Earlier this year, the girls were awarded an environmental grant of $5,500 to improve Harker’s energy efficiency, implement an organic garden and install window-insulating film at the upper school campus. Indukuri’s father, Raju, is a co-founder, with Alexis Ringwald, of Valence Energy, which makes efficiency measuring equipment. Ringwald has been advising and mentoring the girls throughout their project. Harker has had smart meters, devices for monitoring energy use, installed at the lower school campus, and plans to use the grant money to install smart meters at the upper school, along with several other energy saving measures.
At the conference, Lapidous and Indukuri, traveling with Ringwald and Butch Keller, upper school head, met politicians and activists. They were joined by upper school math teacher Mary Mortlock and Winged Post reporter Shannon O’Reilly, Gr. 11, on Friday. The governors’ conference precedes a global climate conference in Copenhagen, which includes the Children’s Climate Forum (CCF), a UNICEF-sponsored event. Harker’s Olivia Zhu, Gr.11, is one of only four students in the U.S. selected to attend the CCF in Copenhagen.
Keynote speeches in L.A. were delivered by Tony Blair, Thomas Friedman and Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Indukuri and Lapidous’ project was on display at the conference in the Valence booth, and the young women presented to a variety of visitors, including Governor Schwarzenegger.
The students answered some questions on their experiences at the conference:
1. What was the highlight of the trip for you?
Indukuri: The highlight of my trip was watching Tom Friedman speak about climate change. He is an amazing, motivational and engaging speaker who inspired the entire audience to take a stand and go green by persuading climate leaders in the government to pass new laws. I’ll always remember his hilarious yet precise advice – “Get out of Facebook and get in someone’s face!”
Lapidous: The highlight of the trip for me was the closing luncheon where Tony Blair, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri and Schwarzenegger had an on-stage conversation with Ann Thompson. All of them are great leaders on climate change who have the ability to put forth the information and a call to action in a way that can relate to and inspire the average person.
2. What did you learn that will help you with your project at Harker?
Indukuri: I learned that with a little personal effort from every member of the student body and faculty, there can be huge reduction in carbon emissions at Harker.
Lapidous: A lot of persistence will be needed to make any change. The most useful thing was meeting people with experience in a lot of areas of environmentalism – business people, scientists, school leaders, politicians – and getting their contact information and support. We’ve been e-mailing some of them and joining a couple of online networks that will help us stay connected to the global green movement and get resources for our Harker project.
3. Who did you meet that made an impression on you?
Indukuri: The youth panel and Tom Friedman definitely made a huge impression on me. One of the panelists mentioned that the majority of people genuinely care about the environment, but since we Californians don’t deal with climate change as directly as island nations do, the issue doesn’t hit us as hard. If there was a way to show everyone that every single person around them will be affected severely by climate change if no change is taken, that will hopefully stimulate a huge interest and commitment to fighting climate change.
Lapidous: Meeting Tom Friedman for a second at a party was a complete awe-of-celebrity moment, but then hearing him speak at an event was incredible. He talked about how the price of oil is inverse to the pace of freedom, and how fighting climate change is not something that will compete with the economy – clean tech will become the driving force of the economy. I was personally impressed with Schwarzenegger’s speaking style, and we met him for about five minutes when we were presenting the Harker energy plan at the Valence Energy booth. My favorite quote of his was that we need to make green hip, like what “Saturday Night Fever” did for disco. Beth Stevens, from Disney, was really nice, too. We explained the smart energy plan to her, and she said smart energy would be an interesting idea for their Disney environmental schools projects. We also met Pam Tuttle from California Student Sustainability Coalition and some of her friends from the same organization and talked with them at an evening reception for a while about everything from GM food to green colleges. They said they’d like to reach out to high schools more. That conversation just made an impression on us because we thought the CSSC was really cool.
Did the conference fire you up even more on the topic?
Indukuri: I feel a million times more committed to joining the green movement because, with this tremendous support and passion brewing among global leaders, there are endless possibilities to fighting climate change. I also feel more committed to informing people that climate change exists and it has disastrous consequences; a lot of the climate leaders stated that a huge fraction of the world’s population is unaware of climate change issues.
Lapidous: Definitely! Right after I got back from the conference, I really started thinking about the impacts of all my actions from turning off lights to how long I showered – more obsessively than usual! And we were extremely inspired. All of these brilliant people converging in one place to discuss this one topic just shows how important it is; if we don’t anything about it now, we’ll really regret it in the future and history will label us as the generation who sat back and watched the world go up in flames. People will either be part of the problem or part of the solution, and it will take an extremely grueling period of effort by a lot of people to come up with even a fraction of a solution, but every contribution counts. We know the work is hard, and it does seem rather intimidating, but we’re just taking it one baby step at a time.
Do you have any other comments on the overall experience?
Indukuri: One of my favorite parts of the conference was the youth leaders’ optimistic approach to combating climate change. Since young generations helped create massive movements such as civil rights, women’s rights, etc., climate change is this generation’s challenge and we should be excited and committed to solving it!
Lapidous: Sure, we’re inspired, but we really need the help of other people, too! I understand that in the U.S., especially, it’s hard to recognize the effects of climate change, and look so far into the future when we have problems in the present. However, it needs to be seen that climate change is THE number one issue facing the planet. We’re going to constitute the future – I think we need to all come together to make sure that our future thoughts are, “We’re glad we didn’t miss the chance to take action.”