September 21, 2023
The Importance of Climate Education, 365 Days a Year
This week is Climate Week NYC, one of the most significant occasions for New Yorkers looking to make a difference in the health and sustainability of our planet’s environment. Organized by the Climate Group, Climate Week offers sustainability advocates big and small an opportunity to join forces, drive climate action, and celebrate our victories while discussing challenges on the road ahead. This year, we kicked off Climate Week and back to school with a story by CBS News, covering our work in Brooklyn and the 60 new schools we’re adding to our community of farmer-scientists (bringing the total number of NY Sun Works hydroponic classrooms to over 300).
We’re thrilled to welcome these new partner schools to our program and the thousands of students who will now have the opportunity to explore the science behind climate change, and how their actions can shape the Earth’s future. But the need for this kind of education also highlights an important disconnect between young New Yorkers and the state of the natural world around us. Growing up in the concentrated concrete of NYC undoubtedly has a formative impact on students who spend the majority of their schooling years within the confines of the city. While there are numerous parks, gardens, and green public spaces that dot the landscape of the Big Apple, it should come as no surprise that students who may have never ventured beyond their borough have a tenuous connection at best with the health of our planet. This comes as no fault of their own of course, as many schools in historically underserved communities lack the resources to adequately provide students with a holistic climate science education while ensuring sufficient exposure to other subjects, and meeting their general logistical needs. These resource deficiencies also disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities, who have been left behind when it comes to mainstream climate resiliency efforts. We see this as a fundamental climate injustice, as low-income communities are typically where the impacts of climate change are felt first and most strongly. Through programs like ours, which build sustainability into existing educational foundations in neighborhoods like these, we hope not only students but their teachers, families, and friends will reap the rewards and foster a new sense of connectedness with the planet we call home.
To that end, our Executive Director Manuela Zamora joined Green Mentors at the 7th NYC Green Schools Conference, hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) on Friday, September 15th as part of the United Nations 78th General Assembly (UNGA78). In collaboration with diplomats, educators, policymakers, and climate leaders, we shared our vision for the future of climate education, and learned from others how best to maximize the accessibility, compassion, and humanity of our shared goals. Sustainability is, by definition, an idea that spans a wide breadth of time, and naturally requires us to think long-term about our goals if we want to make lasting change. Climate education is a serious topic, and while we love discussing the beautiful plants and smiling faces that result from our hydroponic classrooms, we also want to emphasize the causal factors that have drawn us to build them. The young people of today are facing a unique challenge in the form of a climate-altered future, and it falls to us as leaders, elders, and residents of planet Earth to do our part in preparing them for it. Current climate action is of course equally necessary, but we also want to call attention to the future, and with the right level of intentional action, the bright possibilities that come with it.
This Climate Week has brought a host of celebratory occasions to the city, which we’re incredibly excited to share with you in the remainder of this week’s Newsletter. From the Prince of Wales to the President of Queens, to say we need all hands on deck would be a drastic understatement. However, the incredible work happening in our hydroponic classrooms and all around the city by organizations just like ours has inspired us to continue building our community of dedicated farmer-scientists, and empowering more students than ever to take a closer look at where their food comes from, where food and material waste goes, and what it takes to make many of the modern marvels we take for granted happen. Sustainability shouldn’t stop with Climate Week, and together, we can make a difference in New York’s future and beyond.