On Oct. 10, 2021, SI's campus played host to the in-person portion of the second annual Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. High schoolers from across the Bay Area met to discuss climate justice and activism, and SI students were instrumental in putting on the event.
Junior Meredith Foster ’23 and senior Dory Miller ’22 were student organizers. They spoke about why a youth climate summit was important, what work students achieved that day and what next steps they would like to see. Their comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.
How did you get involved in climate activism, and then the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit?
Dory Miller: Since about eighth grade, I have been fascinated with sustainability and local environmental conservation. Sophomore year, I became involved with SI's Green Team. I started out managing our Instagram account, and now I’m serving as the club president, in addition to the Ecological Justice co-leader on the Arrupe Social Justice Leadership Committee along with Meredith.
Meredith Foster: The environment is really important to me. It's something I'm deeply concerned about, the state of our world and climate change. Coming to SI, I wanted to engage in environmental activism as much as possible, and there are a couple spaces on campus where we can do that, the Green Team and Arrupe Council, so that's been a special part of my high school experience so far.
Miller: During quarantine in 2020, around May, we received a DM from the Lick-Wilmerding High School environmental club asking if any of our members would like to join a planning team for a Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. At that time, it was a virtual event featuring various workshops and speakers on different climate solutions. I responded, saying I was personally interested, went through a whole application process, and, with two other SI students who have now graduated, was a part of the first ever Bay Area Youth Climate Summit advisory council.
Foster: Last year, through the Green Team, I became aware of the summit and saw that it was a great youth-led organization, and local, too. So this summer, when I saw applications to get involved, I made sure to apply.
Miller: This year, I'm the social media lead and part of the core team, which is essentially the group that leads the summit. As we've been able to have more in-person events, we decided that for the second summit, we wanted to do an in-person gathering, but also keep the virtual component because we had attendees from all over the world and wanted that wide variety of people to participate again.
Since we're mostly local to the Bay Area, we were looking for a venue and I thought there's no better place to do it than SI. I worked with Ms. Finn with booking the space to hold the event in the Commons, and I worked with Ms. Setiady and Mr. Evans so that students who attended could get credit for community service hours.
Foster: The summit, itself, is a once-a-year thing, but there's more outreach, organizing and activism we do through the organization to promote being aware and mindful of actions we take every day that affect the environment. For example, I've contributed to the monthly newsletter, and it's been interesting to research different topics for those articles, like the recent heat waves in the Pacific Northwest.
What results came out of this year's summit?
Foster: I believe we had around 50 students attending the event from the City, Marin, all over. It was exciting to see people coming together. We had different events during the day. For our networking sessions, we put people in random groups so they could get to know people from other schools, and they shared why they care about this cause. Personally, it was inspiring to see all these young people from different backgrounds, different parts of the Bay Area, all coming together to engage on a topic that matters to them.
Miller: We had a group leading hypothetical climate action plans for more general issues and what our solutions would be if we had the means to do them. Some of these involved solutions focused on green energy, wildlife conservation and issues like that on a broader scale. But we also worked on implementable school-level climate action plans that participants could bring back to their school communities.
Foster: The SI climate action planning group thought of ideas for how to reduce SI's carbon footprint, and it was interesting because while I'm involved with the Green Team and Arrupe Council, not everyone who attended the summit from SI has been involved with them. So I got to hear new voices that we wouldn't necessarily hear at the Green Team or Arrupe Council meetings. It was a bigger circle of people, and we came up with some great ideas, like a school garden, working with Fr. Sauer Academy to expand Green Team there, and more. We're still working on them, and I think it's important to remember that a big part of this is being open to imagining a better future.
Miller: We're also working on a Meatless Monday campaign and generally trying to encourage people to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets because of the large carbon footprint meat production has. It's not necessarily about becoming vegetarian or vegan, because those aren't diets that are always accessible to everyone for various reasons, but more to get people to be more mindful of what they're eating and how that affects the planet.
What's next that SI should know about?
Miller: We're trying to get students more interested in policy-making and advocacy in general, which is something the Arrupe Council is also focusing on within its different subcommittees. We're doing a phone banking session in collaboration with the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit on Nov. 10 through Nov. 12. That Wednesday, Nov. 10, I'll be leading a phone banking session here at school. We'll be calling our senators and representatives about the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act.
Foster: I hope we, as an institution, think more about sustainability and our carbon footprint as part of our everyday lives. I think it's important that we consider ways to be more environmentally friendly because we're all connected on this planet, people here in the Bay Area and people in places experiencing immediate climate crises, and it seems to me that caring for our planet is a way to answer the Jesuit call to live not just for ourselves but for others.