Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our biggest Climate Camp yet!

In terms of sheer numbers, this is our biggest Climate Camp yet. In fact, we doubled the number of Campers from last year's initial Climate Camp, so this movement of coming climate science with civics and the arts is growing.

Our Day Camps are helping. You can check them out here and here and here.

And we are starting to take Climate Camp on the road. Here's our South Bend overnight.

And you can check out last year's weeklong camp here.

Thanks to Lilly Endowment Inc. for their support of this camp.

Rather than wax poetic about it all, I will let the photos do the talking.

DAY ONE: Peace Learning Center

One of the keys to this year's weeklong Climate Camp was putting youth in charge of aspects of camp planning and presentations. Here, Iris (left) and Maddie (right) do a presentation on climate change and climate solutions.
Part of the process of empowering youth was elevating our veteran Climate Campers to counselor status. Note, third from left, Climate Camp co-director Kristina Hulvershorn, whose infant was along for the entire week's ride.
We ate vegan all week, including Monday's lunch of vegan pizza.
Eating vegan is about being kind to the earth. Here Isabelle (left) and Homiko demonstrate a different type of kindness, sharing one plate instead of using two plates.

Not a great photo, sorry! In addition to covering climate change and climate solutions, we also showed Story of Stuff to explore ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.
Our home base at the Peace Learning Center is Eagle Creek Park, so being in nature is essential. Here we are on a hike, led by Nate Garvey from White Pine Wilderness Academy.
Being a Climate Camper is about being a good steward of the earth. Here, Alden, shows off the trash he found on our nature hike. We then placed the items in the PLC's recycling bins.
Fundamental Climate Camp fun is growing friendships. Here, Maciah and Cora, Youth Power Indiana's most active Instagram users, pose for the camera.

DAY TWO: Peace Learning Center

We started off Day Two with a nifty theater improv piece taught to us by IUPUI's Gabe Filippelli, our resident climate scientist. The counselors led the Campers thru an exercise that demonstrates the impact of CO2 and methane on the atmosphere's capacity to trap heat and thus more water vapor.
On Day Two, we brought the arts into the mix. I showed the Campers my Saving the World Thru Bumper Stickers presentation, then the Campers created a bunch of their own stickers (see below). At the same time, counselor Molly Denning let a group of Campers through a 3D sculpture workshop.
Caroline goes to the heart of it with her bumper sticker. 

Ella's inspiration for her "use less" bumper sticker is Harry Potter — and mostly the Weasleys!

Hillary's bumper sticker.
We had an overseas Camper who spent the week with us: Magda.
On Day Two in the afternoon, we welcomed visiting experts. Kate Franzman did a presentation on the importance of pollinators.
Chris Cruzan from Greater Good Gardens did a workshop on hydro- and aero-ponic gardening.
And Waseema Ali from the Desmond Tutu Center spoke to the kids about the importance of civic engagement.
Lest I forget the vital issue of lunch, we ate vegan, with contributions from local farmer Tyler Gough from Indy Urban Acres. The campers planned and implemented the lunch. Sam proved to be the most adept in the kitchen.

DAY THREE: IndyGo Adventures

We like field trips at Climate Camp so that our Campers can see the real-life successes in sustainability around our great city and beyond. Due to the enormity of our population this year, we decided to break up into two groups to explore the city. Thanks to IndyGo for donating day passes for our adventurous day! Here's a selection of images from the day. Note I couldn't be in two places at once, so the other group has lots of photos, too.

Taking IndyGo was about sustainability, of course. We kept our carbon footprint low by riding the bus. Our first stop was Freewheelin' Community Bikes, where we learned how low the footprint can go when you ride a bike!

First stop, Freewheelin' Community Bikes. Everyone attended a workshop of bicycle maintenance and safety, led by Lateef. 
Right down the block from Freewheelin' is an exemplary community garden. Maggie Goeglein, head of Fall Creek Gardens, talks about gardening, but also describes Mapleton Fall Creek's neighborhood LEED Certification program.
Group two, awaiting the bus to take them to Indy Urban Acres.

All our trips that day required transfers. Here we are waiting for the bus to take us to Paramount School of Excellence. For over half our Campers, this was their first day riding the bus. Everyone had a great time! For more on on our weeklong camp, go to Our biggest Climate Camp yet, part two!

Our biggest Climate Camp yet, part two!

This Climate Camp was so vast, with so many adventures and photos, I had to break this blog into two sections. Hope you followed us here from there. When last we were together we were mid way through Day 3, our adventure on IndyGo. One group went to Indy Urban Acres, to see where our lunches were coming from that week. The other, my group, were visiting Paramount School of Excellence, a frequent destination for my work.

Our biggest challenge at Paramount was keeping the chickens from stealing our lunches.

The Campers got to wrangle the goats back into their pen.

Natalie is sporting her Freewheelin' sticker. We ended up going to Harrison Center for the Arts, before finishing our day at the Nature Conservancy, downtown Indy. All in all, a packed and wonderful experience.

DAY 4: A Bicycle Adventure

To connect the dots of Freewheelin' and carbon reduction, we embarked on Thursday on bikes, meeting at Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, then bicycling to Fruit Loop Acres. Today, I did not take so many photos as I was busy riding a bike, as well as keeping an eye out for traffic. People in cars were extraordinarily nice that day. We must have been a sight, about fifty of us on bicycles!

Bikes at rest at Fruit Loop Acres.

Farmer Kay from Fruit Loop Acres showing us how to use dowsing rods to trace the ancient river below.

Farmer Kay has about 30 varieties of fruit on her urban farm.

Kevin was so helpful on our ride, ensuring our safe passage from destination to destination.

Maddie, Anisa and Molly, enjoying Fruit Loop Acres.

Nothing better than petting the bees at Fruit Loop Acres.
We enjoyed a vegan lunch of rescued food at the incredible Second Helpings.
When we returned to Chase, we met with Kate Franzman again, learning more about bees, as well as composing, urban farming, and all-round sustainability.

I will say it again, Climate Camp is all about making friends: Lilly (left) and Skye agree!

DAY 5: Back to Peace Learning Center

Our final day was a connect-the-dots presentation by me, emphasizing some basic climate science, and reinforcing the idea that eating vegan, taking the bus, riding bikes, and growing and consuming locally, all make sense when one wants to be a good steward of the planet. We also talked about civic action as well, from getting engaged in our statewide advocacy for a Climate Action Plan, to initiatives in cities such as Eugene, Oregon's, to enact a Climate Recovery Ordinance.

Sebastian made sure we put our waste to good use, turning the used cups and plates into a robot costume for our Showcase.

Magda and Lucy made an installation about bees.
Ella (left) and Homiko, prepping their presentation on how buying second hand clothes is a better option than buying new ones. The Weasleys are a model family, from their perspective.

The presentation.
Caroline, with Maciah having fun in the background, shows off her new t-shirt.
Cora (left) demonstrates with Adara how to talk about the "Ask Me About My Future" t-shirt that is the centerpiece of each and every Climate Camp.

We had a packed show on Friday night. Campers created plays, songs and movies, all in one afternoon.

Last ones out of the building that evening: Maciah, Kristina, me and Iris.
And so we completed our second weeklong camp, thanks to our hosts at Peace Learning Center. No one got hurt on our bike ride, no one got lost on our bus trip, and only a few campers reported nightmares associated with climate change. All in all, I hope we inspired a few more kids to join Youth Power Indiana, and our continuing effort to find the sweet spot of climate stewardship and civic leadership.

If you want to learn more, email me or leave a message.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Climate Camp overnight in South Bend

Though based in Indianapolis, I spend time all over the state of Indiana in my capacity as executive director of Earth Charter Indiana. These travels take me to schools, businesses, parks and events that inspire me in my work to educate and empower when it comes to climate change and climate solutions.

This work has resulted in the formation of our youth program, Youth Power Indiana.

I visit South Bend area frequently and why not? It's my home town, born and raised and graduated high school, and where my siblings and mother still live. It's also replete with commitment to sustainability and climate action.

Recently, my friend Charlotte Wolfe, a farmer who runs Prairie Winds Nature Farm, thought it would be a good idea to hold a Climate Camp on her farm just south of South Bend in Lakeville. Charlotte had heard about the Climate Camps we hold in Indianapolis area at places like Peace Learning Center at Eagle Creek Park, White Pine Wilderness Academy, and next month, Paramount School of Excellence. I was thrilled when she asked me, because I knew this would be my chance to introduce the amazing youth from central Indiana to the amazing youth of northern Indiana.

The two day experience exceeded my expectations — and believe me, being the persistently optimistic person that I am, I had high expectations!

Charlotte and I designed a schedule, but we also decided to leave room for the youth to shape the event as they saw fit. It unfolded effortlessly. As I often do, I'll let the photos do the talking here, but please, if you are interested in hosting a Climate Camp event, please contact me, I'd love to help out.

Here's the Climate Camp crew, with me in back; adults in the front are Charlotte Wolfe and Kathy Sipple.
Charlotte's Prairie Winds Nature Farm is beautiful, and chockfull of sustainable practices.
Here, Charlotte is talking with Grace (left) while Tomas looks on. Grace has long been involved with Prairie Winds. Currently she is a summer camp counselor for Prairie Winds' summer camps.
The prairie the farm is named for with the frog- and other creature-filled pond/swamp in the background.
Campers were greeted with this charming sign.
Our first meeting, discussing the agenda for the camp.
Beth agreed to be our scribe as we scheduled our first day's activities.
We decided to occupy Charlotte's garage for our presentation needs. Here,  17 year old Iris does her Climate Change 101 presentation for the assembled.
Julia, right, shows off the publication of her article about Good Shepherd Montessori's academy conference on food. 
Maddie was trained by the Climate Reality Project in Cedar Rapids in May, officially beginning her path as a climate educator. Here she is talking about how quickly the Arctic is melting, destabilizing the climate.
Iris was also trained by the Climate Reality in May. Here she is showing off the book, Overshoot, about the impact humanity has on the planet.
After the presentations, campers moved outside for various activities., including bee-keeping.Charlotte, left, helped these campers find the queen.
Madison and Iris took a dip in the pond.
Other Climate Campers decided to ride horses.
It was an enthralling day thus far, a nice mixture of youth-led science and civics initiatives, along with a discussion of Julia's professional clip as a journalist (Farm Indiana). Next, the campers needed to plan dinner so we did a little harvesting from Prairie Winds, while incorporating the produce we had brought with us from Indy Urban Acres.

The campers eyed the ingredients and decided what to fix. I'll let the photos do the talking here.

We set up three tents for the campers — two for the girls, one for the guys.

The next day, we began with a good breakfast of locally sourced ingredients cooked over a fire — including fresh eggs from Prairie Winds' chickens and fresh fruit on the pancakes.

Then, we enjoyed more youth presentations on issues of concern. For example, Julia showed her short documentary on the gender of food, a subject that beguiled the climate campers. What's gender have to do with food? Julia's brilliant documentary showed us how.

Other youth showed presentations they'd planned on sharing, while other youth stood up to talk who hadn't planned on presenting.

Here, Tomas is talking about farmworker justice. 
And Grace tells the story of the multi-year process of getting an ordinance passed in South Bend to allow backyard chickens.
By now, we knew we were in the presence of seasoned presenters and activists, despite their ostensible youth. Grace was a particularly inspiring speaker as she was involved in this South Bend policy change for years — persisting through numerous roadblocks. Now, South Bend has lots of chicken coops, and thus plenty of fresh eggs.

Climate Campers watched a video about a victory in Eugene, Oregon, where young people inspired the city council to pass a Climate Recovery Act for the entire city. Afterward, campers talked about the feasibility of a similar action in South Bend and beyond.

Kathy Sipple interviews Matthew for her podcast. The campers gathered round her computer/phone to talk about the impact of the two day camp.
One last walk through the prairie before returning home.
You can listen to Kathy's podcast here. The experience inspired the campers to create their own podcast. More on that later.

For me, this experience was exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. I had been consumed with logistics regarding this camp and next week's weeklong camp at the Peace Learning Center. But by the time I got to Prairie Winds and experienced the beatific surroundings of free range chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats and horses, I began to unwind and breathe and simply enjoy myself.

I've been on the job nearly two years now, and honestly, sometimes, it feels like I'm running in place. At the highest levels of leadership in Indiana there is a stubborn opposition to facing the reality of fossil fuel pollution and what it is doing to the planet — and thus to these young people's futures.

These young people get it; in fact, most young people do. The challenge is motivating them into doing something about it.

Youth often feel they don't have a voice in the matter. Here, at Climate Camp, they often led the discussion. I can't predict the outcome, but I do know these kids were impassioned, cooperative, irreverent and goofy.

They screamed in delight in the night and kept me awake, but I lay in my single person tent and just smiled. This is what an overnight camp is about. Making up ghost stories, taking a late night hike with your new friends, and scaring yourself into running back to your tent.

All too early that second morning, the rooster crowed the arrival of the sunrise. I was the first one up, touring the farm, eying the livestock, ogling the life, touring the swamp and feeding the mosquitoes. I didn't get much sleep, but was refreshed with the sense of possibility.

I'll leave you with a few additional photos for your viewing pleasure.