Climate dispatch: How TTUSD can protect students’ futures and really celebrate Earth Day (Opinion)
Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, and marked the emergence of the modern environmental movement. Around 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day protests throughout the United States and demanded regulations on water and air pollution in addition to general environmental stewardship.
Their efforts were recognized with the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, which “keeps 700 billion pounds of pollutants out of our waters annually, has slowed the rate of wetland loss, and doubled the number of waters that are safe for fishing and swimming,” according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Fifty-three years later, we are still fighting for climate justice amid a rising tide of environmental issues. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase dramatically and reliance on fossil fuels is still widespread despite the increased popularity of the environmental movement. Investing in electrification and efficiency is key to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating problems related to climate change.
The practice of replacing appliances and vehicles run on fossil fuels with those powered by clean electricity has the potential to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions, reduce indoor air pollutants, and lower total energy costs. This would lessen the negative effects of global warming, improve human health, and help businesses save money.
Although our minds often jump to factories and smokestacks as the main culprit of fossil fuel emissions, schools are actually one of the largest public consumers of energy, producing the equivalent of 19 coal-fired power plants or 15 million cars each year (K-12 Climate Action). That’s a massive contribution to the already high levels of greenhouse gasses and pollution entering the atmosphere and is also the second-largest source of expenses for school districts.
So fossil fuel usage is not only detrimental to human health in the form of accelerating climate change and reducing air quality but is also a financial burden for school districts. This could be alleviated by making school districts more sustainable through implementing indoor air quality regulations, creating energy usage and emission reduction goals, integrating electric vehicles and fleet infrastructure, committing to accurate auditing and emission-monitoring technology, and investing in a renewable electric grid.
The Tahoe Youth Action Team, a local youth climate advocacy group affiliated with Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Citizens’ Climate Education, would like to make the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District more sustainable by implementing a climate resolution. This resolution proposes a multitude of different actions that TTUSD can take to become more sustainable and lower their energy costs.
Similar resolutions have been implemented in school districts around the country, including South Lake Tahoe, Denver and Salt Lake City. Many school districts have also written comprehensive action plans for sustainability, hired energy managers, and prioritized collaboration with their students on environmental solutions. Electrification is achievable and impactful for our community, and there are countless online resources available to help school districts transition such as Rewiring America and Schools for Climate Action.
Today’s youth are invested in protecting the planet and safeguarding their futures. In a Pew Research Poll from 2021, over 76% of young adults stated that addressing climate change was one of the biggest concerns they had. As the center of learning for most of these young adults, schools play a critical role in modeling climate-conscious behavior for students. It’s extremely important that students learn positive behavior from their school districts and teachers to help nurture a future generation that is aware of how to combat climate change and aid environmental health.
One way schools can model this behavior is by taking action within the district to pass a resolution containing concrete climate goals. This action also allows students to have input in decisions pertaining to important modern issues. It provides a new type of learning experience centered on civic action and advocacy for students interested in having a say in their school districts’ policies.
We have limited time to act on climate change. While it’s vital that we celebrate climate successes, like the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (2022) and increased environmental awareness, it’s even more crucial to keep taking action. This requires us all to stand up and demand change. We all lead busy lives and some are more capable of being involved than others, but everyone can make a difference.
Celebrate this Earth Day and come support the Tahoe Youth Action Team when they present their resolution to the school board on April 26. Please sign and share the petition supporting the resolution at https://change.org/TTUSD-electrification-resolution.
Keira Scott is an 11th grader at Truckee High School. She is a member of the Envirolution Club at THS and a leader of the Tahoe Youth Action Team. When she’s not doing climate work, you can find her cross country skiing, reading, cooking, running, and doing almost anything in the great outdoors.
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