Guest blog post: Aidan White, Rising eighth grader at George Washington Middle School
This past school year, Earth Force sponsored my science class’ project to improve the local watershed. As a rising eighth grader at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, VA, I recently attended Our Task Inc.’s Annual Earth 2100 Conference at George Mason University representing Earth Force. It is a conference focused on young adults to help our generation realize the problems in our environment and how we can help fix them.
I was surprised to find that I was the youngest attendee, followed by a rising high school senior. Nevertheless, I was excited to learn. Day one included presentations from by Robert Engleman, a Senior Fellow of the Worldwatch Institute and Timothy Damon, the U.S. Youth Delegate to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We then saw a presentation on renewable energy. Did you know that the U.S. is the second highest CO2 emitting nation (behind China)? Another panel included experts on alternative plans to help the environment. Two of the people on the panel were a brother and a sister named Carter and Olivia Ries. They founded a non-profit in 2009 called One More Generation (OMG). It focuses on saving endangered species for at least one more generation and educates students about the aforementioned species. They have helped hundreds of animals and educated thousands of students, all at the tender ages of 11 and 13.
Jacqui Patterson, the director of the NAACP’s Climate Change Initiative discussed Environmental Justice and the fact that most landfills, nuclear plants, and coal burning plants are built in areas with more people of color and ethnicity.
Day two kicked off with another presentation by Cater and Olivia Ries about the fact that anyone can make a difference. For example, Chick-Fil-A recently started serving paper straws at their restaurants instead of plastic all because Carter had a discussion with one of the managers about sustainability.
In the afternoon, we had an hour to talk with the heads of various environmental organizations. I was particularly interested with the Center for a New American Dream. Later, Hannah Debelius from the U.S. Green Building Council of Students gave a short presentation on her year living on Smith Island in Maryland. We then took a break to visit the George Mason student vegetable garden, being tended to this summer by Christine Harris, a current student at GMU.
When we got back to the conference room, we met up with the environmental organization heads again to discuss how to get involved. I am taking a pledge not to drink from plastic water bottles for 30 days (learn more here). We finished off with some closing remarks from the president of Our Task Inc., who put on the conference. All in all, it was an amazing experience, and I am grateful for Earth Force granting me this opportunity.