BAR HARBOR — Members of the student Eco Team at Mount Desert Island High School have asked the school board to make a formal commitment to combatting climate change and its impacts.
The proposed commitment, called Project Legacy, has three parts: education, carbon emissions and social justice.
“We want to increase education and climate literacy within our curriculum, adding this subject to our required classes so all students get a strong understanding of climate change and the issues surrounding it,” Eco Team member Mason Soares told the school board April 12.
As for carbon emissions, he said, “We aim to reduce (the high school’s) emissions and waste production by increasing our efficiency and use of climate-friendly alternatives. A goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050 should be kept in mind during future decisions.”
The social justice component of Project Legacy should include “an active effort to have a variety of people with different viewpoints in the discussion” of combatting climate change, Soares said.
The Eco Team has suggested steps the high school might take to back up the commitment. For example, on the issue of carbon emissions, Sophia Anderson said, “We want to create a more detailed timeline to ensure that our goals can be met…and we want to continue support for current Eco Team projects.”
She said those projects include “benchmarking the high school’s energy use.”
“We are also creating compost systems with the custodians…We are mapping the heat pumps and finding out where new electric ones are needed to make our school more heat efficient. We are researching [the possibility of] building a wind turbine. We are looking into converting from fuel oil to biodiesel.”
Max Friedlander told the school board that the Eco Team’s suggested actions to back up the commitment to social justice include “seeking ways to leverage sustainability changes to also address social inequalities such as economic disparity or indigenous people’s rights.”
Ayano Ishimura, president of the Eco Team, said that making climate change education part of the required curriculum is essential.
“Everyone in my generation and forward will be faced with situations due to climate change that no person before has had to experience,” she said. “Ensuring that every student is well versed in the fundamentals of climate science and history will not only be instrumental in their life but is necessary.”
She said the Eco Team is asking the school board to “understand, agree to and sign the commitment we have stated in education, carbon emissions and social justice.
The suggested steps are not a part of the commitment, but a series of possible steps the school could realistically take to meet these commitments.”
At least as important as signing the commitment, Ishimura said, is for the school board to keep that commitment in mind and to honor it when making decisions.
Principal Matt Haney told the board, “This is not an action item for tonight; this is the opening of a conversation. Many of these things we have been working together on within the school; many are [already] within our purview in the school.”
He praised the Eco Team members, saying, “They work as tireless advocates for our planet.”
Superintendent Marc Gousse said he hopes the type of work the Eco Team is doing can “cascade down” to the middle school and elementary school grades.