The Urgency of Combating Climate Change: How Students Can Take Action through Extracurricular Activities

Scientists have warned us about the climate disaster for decades, and now we are finally beginning to feel the effects they have long predicted. The West Coast fires are out of control, intense storms are increasing around the world, glaciers are melting at a rapid pace, rivers are flooding, and farmlands are getting hit by droughts. And now with COVID-19, the world has seen how quickly problems can spread — but also how quickly society can respond. As society feels the very real effects of climate change, so do we feel the need for real solutions. While we are already responding to climate change in some ways, such as reducing greenhouse gases and adapting to the change already happening, we need something bigger and more permanent. And with a new generation of young people, an answer may be closer than we think. Harmony Plus hosted a webinar called, “The Urgency of Combating Climate Change: How Students Can Take Action through Extracurricular Activities,” on December 19, 2020, that addressed this topic.

Presented by the Extracurricular Activity, Trainee, and Internship Club (EATIC), this webinar began with a quick introduction to Harmony Plus and EATIC, along with details about a special research opportunity through a student-directed project from Calla Butke. With its hybrid learning platform and academic, soft skill enhancement, and professor research programs, Harmony Plus offers students of all ages the chance to gain the skills needed to excel. One of the best ways to gain these skills is through the EATIC program. This program helps students to enhance their college applications through participation in exclusive extracurricular activities, internship opportunities, job workshops, collaborative projects, leadership positions, and more. In particular, EATIC members are currently working on the Climate Change Research Project, a student-driven project to take action against climate change and protect the environment. Together, students will work for four months to brainstorm project ideas, plan their research project, and carry out the project. With group roles like project manager, main author/editor, tech lead, designer, students will be able to demonstrate to colleges that they’re proactive in addressing pressing issues, as well as gain research and leadership experience.

To get the EATIC panelists and audience thinking critically about climate change, the webinar welcomed guest speakers, Herman Gyr, Ph.D., and Lisa Friedman, Ph.D. Founding partners of the Enterprise Development Group and co-authors of “The Dynamic Enterprise: Tools for Turning Chaos into Strategy and Strategy into Action,” the two work closely together as climate change activists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Herman is the creator of the Innovation Blueprint and has specialized in working with enterprises living through periods of dramatic disruption. Lisa works with leaders and teams globally to facilitate a shared understanding of the trends transforming their industries and to design their organizations for the future. She is also a frequent speaker on “Innovation Silicon Valley Style” and coordinates EDG’s Silicon Valley Innovation Immersion Programs, bringing leaders from around the world for visits combined with integration sessions to build learning into their blueprints for the future. With such impressive credentials, Herman and Lisa were bound to share interesting insights into the topic at hand.

Herman and Lisa began their talk by answering the question, “Where do we come from?” They then covered 4.7 billion years of evolution on planet Earth, offering a perspective from evolutionary biology, from the early microorganisms to us; how our unique terrestrial climate came about; and what we know about extinctions and recovery. For example, in extinctions, 50–90% of existing species perish and it takes between 10 million and 100 million years for Earth to get back to the same level of biodiversity that existed before the extinction event. Referencing an exhibition called “A Walk through Time — from Stardust to us,” where every foot represents 1 million years, we “walked” 4,700 feet to finally meet ourselves — modern humans. So where does that put us? Herman and Lisa then discussed Climate Reality, covering the 121F reached in Los Angeles County earlier this year and the fires in Northern California. They also shared an image that shows that Earth has not seen the current atmospheric conditions for at least 2.6 million years when oceans were up to 50 feet above current levels. As a result, 40% of phytoplankton have already vanished, with the other 60% assumed to be gone by 2100. But why is this important? Because 80% of oxygen is produced by phytoplankton! So what can we do? Enter Regenerative Economy, which is what is beginning to emerge as companies, startups, investors, universities, governments, communities, and young innovators are joining together to imagine and create the solutions and future social needs. Herman and Lisa discussed current solutions like solar, wind, and electrical vehicles, moving onto Moonshots, which are radical solutions to a problem (like climate change) using disruptive technology. There are technical, biological (such as mycelium and regenerative agriculture), engineering, and financial moonshots (like apps that track your carbon footprint and green banks). They also touched on corporate commitments (Google, Microsoft, etc), and alliances such as “Transform to Net Zero,” which includes companies such as Microsoft, Nike, Maersk, and others. In the end, though, Herman and Lisa agreed that only humanity can save us. Youth in particular is having a global awakening right now and could have the solutions we need. And since scientists can’t deal with it all, there are more opportunities than ever (like data collections) for everyone to help out. No other generation has had this sort of access before and we must use it to our advantage.

Breaking into a discussion to dive deeper into what Herman and Lisa had shared, the student panelists responded to the following questions:

  • What struck you about the presentation?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • What does it make you think of?
  • What kinds of ambitious, moonshot ideas do you have to take action in regards to climate change?
  • What can students do?
  • How can students make a difference?

Five students shared their thoughts with Herman and Lisa, all of whom shared insightful comments. Nora talked about how Earth has come so far and yet we are destroying it at a rapid pace. She felt very hopeless listening to other people talk about it since they offer no real solution. However, she loved listening to Herman and Lisa for their proactive talk and now feels motivated to formulate a plan. Frank found the economic angle interesting. With $75 million devoted to helping climate change, he felt it allows his generation to help more. Seeing how humans have developed industrially in the last two centuries in their search for comfort and convenience, which is now destroying us, shows how we need to step up to solve it. Darianna found it ironic how though we’re the first generation to completely understand the depth of our damage, we’re also the last generation to have the opportunity to fix everything. Yet, this offers a window for innovative opportunities on a fixed timeline. Allen was shocked at how costly climate change is and felt that developing green energy into a larger product would be a better use of money. He brought up the notion of toxic consumption and consumerism in a toxic way, saying that we need to find a greener way to live. Finally, Patrick touched on the amount of carbon dioxide we produce and how much it has damaged the earth. He felt that we need to focus on what we want versus what we need and how to produce it so that we reduce climate change.

As the webinar came to an end, it became clear what the next steps would be: The younger generation will need to help solve the climate crisis. Covid, in particular, has taught us a lot about emergencies and has made us reimagine how we do certain things, like work or school. This timely event has intersected with a resurgence of climate change action, begging the question: If not us then who? We need to think of what things will be around and how we, in particular students, can bring their intelligence to them. Humans had the power to create this problem, so they can help fix it. This is why it’s so important that the EATIC students take the first step towards finding a possible solution with their research project. Want to be a part of the EATIC climate change project? Sign up today to help save the world (and get yourself into a good college while you’re at it).

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Upgrading education through collaboration with professional faculties, high-quality curriculum, and allegiant consulting services.

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