Climate Change Webcast: What’s Happening on the Ground?

Thacher students participated in virtual conference on the effects of and responses to climate change.
What better way to work toward the greater good than to educate others? That’s what Mr. Jacobsen’s xBlock class did earlier this month. In partnership with News-Decoder, a not-for-profit news service and forum for young people around the world, three Thacher students, Malena ’20, Skye ’21, and James ’20, collaborated with students from two other schools to present a webinar titled Climate Change: What’s Happening on the Ground?  We discussed the class project with James.

Tell us about the course
It was an Xblock elective called A Climate Change Course. Mr. Jacobsen has taught global studies courses focused on more general foreign politics in the past. This year, Thacher became a News-Decoder partner, so he developed the curriculum around that partnership. We spent the trimester investigating the effects of and responses to climate change in California, Ventura County, Ojai, and Thacher. This is the first time I have taken a course directly focused on Thacher, how it affects the world and how the world affects the School.

Why the collaboration with the other school?
Nelson Graves, the founder of News-Decoder, understands that many issues we face locally are really global issues. And, I think News-Decoder uses these collaborations between schools to help us share some of our experiences.The students from Friends Seminary in New York, and King’s Academy in Jordan mostly focused on water in relation to climate change, which was our focus, too.

Talk about the specific geographic focus
Daisy, who is our ambassador to News-Decoder, focused on the state of California herself,  because she has personal connections to someone who is addressing climate change on the state level. She published an article about that on the News-Decoder site earlier in the trimester. The rest chose the area they were most interested in, from the three local areas. I chose to focus on Thacher.

Since we could only have three presenters for the webinar, we included the county, city, and School research and left out the state part. Some of the other presenters asked questions about other areas in the state, but California has such a diverse ecosystem and economy that I can't imagine how we could have looked at how climate change is affecting areas like Eureka, which is so north, or San Diego, so far south, in the amount of time we had.

Climate change and Thacher
I chose to focus on Thacher because but it isn’t always clear to the students why we participate in environmental initiatives. There's a general sense on campus that we should conserve earth's resources and we should mitigate our impact on the environment and stuff like that. But the students don't have a clear vision from the administration of what specifically we are trying to mitigate. And so, by being able to look into the school, especially in the facilities department (Mr. Bennett was really helpful with that), I was able to see what the School is doing. He showed me the School's actual goals. I didn't know that Thacher had actually aimed to cut over half of its water use. And we succeeded in doing that; we cut over 50 percent of the water used from the past year and the year before that as well. We don't hear these kinds of things in everyday conversation. We're encouraged to save resources; we have dorm activities and  the green cup challenge and we're encouraged to challenge ourselves to use less resources, but knowing that the school has actual resources and numbers that they're willing to crunch was big for me.

I think for my personal growth, it helped me understand the gravity of environmental issues. and it made me realize that environmental issues aren't exclusive to one type of demographic. Before the research process, I kind of looked at environmentalism as only a thing that people could do if they could afford to make changes to their lives. I figured, our country was built on the dependence on non-renewable resources and it's kind of too late in the game for so many poor or middle-class Americans to change our lifestyles. But I’ve realized it affects all of us. Like the school from Jordan—the country of Jordan has so many geo-political and social boundaries that America doesn't have, and so it was interesting to see kids from this different background talking about common things that concern us and inspire us as all.

It’s also made me look at things in my life. Because I live in New Jersey, so I have to take an airplane several times a year to go home. That in itself is a terrible tax on the environment. I've become more aware of things like the clothes that I buy (that use so much water to produce) and the food that I eat (like the consumption of meat). There has to come a point when you stop doing things just  because you like them, and you have to think about others.

Final thoughts
I’d like to thank Mr. Jacobsen and Daisy, because she did so much. It would have been impossible without her; she is very dedicated to News-Decoder and I really appreciate her work. And, I hope that Thacher can continue to do things like this, to develop relations with other schools. I think it’s important.

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