Youth get creative about climate change

By Megan McBride
Special to the Homer Tribune

HOMER TRIBUNE/Megan McBride - Young people taking part in “Getting Creative About Climate Change” share in projects and information. Homer’s Justin Sky is in the middle.

HOMER TRIBUNE/Megan McBride - Young people taking part in “Getting Creative About Climate Change” share in projects and information. Homer’s Justin Sky is in the middle.

The reality of climate change hit home for a duo of Homer High students at a special youth science camp this summer, especially when hearing first-hand accounts from their northern peers.
“Current CO2 levels are really high compared to the past. I always knew CO2 levels go up and down in cycles, but I didn’t know how real this really is until I found out that the current readings are literally off the charts compared with nearly all previous ones. It made me really understand how serious climate change is,” explained Homer high school student Justice Sky upon his return from the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action’s environmental training program “Getting Creative About Climate Change” held in Anchorage’s Arctic Valley ski area, July 20-24. 
Sky, along with summer Homer resident, McKenzie Haber, were two of 17 youth from 11 communities attending the program. In addition to making new friends and learning about the diversity of cultures in Alaska, the group spent the week exploring issues of climate change, environmental justice, renewable energy and youth activism.  
The goals of the annual week-long gathering are to educate youth about climate change, and equip them with skills to take action for the environment.
This is the third year AYEA’s statewide training has focused on using creative expression and technology as tools for environmental action.  The event draws a diverse group of youth who learn about each other’s local environmental challenges and develop relationships that bridge geography and culture. 
One of the more amazing realizations was to see the power of art in bringing the teens together. Youth from very different backgrounds come together and learned a lot from each other. The powerful movement bridges Alaska’s rural-urban and cultural divisions.
This year marked one of the most diverse groups to date, with youth from Alaska Native, Samoan, African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian ethnic backgrounds.
The group met with experts on renewable energy and climate change in Alaska, and the teens shared with each other their own unique experiences with climate change. Students from Anchorage shared stories of unusually hot summers and unusually cold winter spells, while students from coastal villages in the Kuskokwim region shared stories of erosion and having to change their subsistence hunting patterns.
 AYEA and National Wildlife Federation are involved with the national movement to connect children with the outdoors. AYEA combats “nature deficit disorder” by emphasizing outdoor play and exploration in all of their trainings. At this event, teens who had never been camping or hiking before got to spend a week sleeping in tents in the mountains. The group hiked up several nearby peaks, enjoying blueberries, wildflowers, and views of the Chugach Mountains and the Anchorage bowl.
Coupled with their exploration of climate change in Alaska, the students participated in intensive art workshops, studying either spoken-word poetry or digital storytelling. In one week, they created art pieces in one of these forms, inspired by their personal connection to the environment and fueled by the environmental education sessions at the training.
At the end of the training, participants shared their finished art pieces at a public performance in Anchorage. Justice prepared a digital presentation about the effects of climate change on local plants that he has harvested for personal use.  He explained the potential problems of invasive weeds, like orange hawkweed.  Haber’s presentation focused on global warming’s profound effects on glaciers.  Both came away from the training with valuable new skills.  “I think I could use my new knowledge of digital story telling in the future by creating presentations to help make people aware of other environmental issues in Homer when I join the Homer chapter of AYEA. I could give presentations to help try to make a difference,” said Sky.
The group’s digital stories are on MySpace and videos of the poetry performances will be available soon on AYEA’s YouTube Channel:
Teens from the training will be sharing their poetry and digital stories at upcoming conferences: the Bioneers in Alaska Conference, October 2009; First Alaskans Institute’s Elders & Youth Conference, October 2009; Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management, November 2009; and Alaska Forum on the Environment, February 2010.

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Posted by on Aug 19th, 2009 and filed under Youth. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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