Blog Contributor: Brooke Kapeller
Last week, myself and another grad student, Angela, travelled to the University of Waterloo to help out with the Ontario high school Envirothon put on by Forests Ontario, and sponsored in part by Brock. These students had already been at Waterloo for two days, participating in a variety of activities, classes, and tests designed to further their knowledge of the environment. The portion of the Envirothon that Angela and I were volunteering for was judging their presentations. This was the final activity of the Envirothon; the students were divided into their class groups of 5 students each and were all given the same scenario. They were then given a few hours to prepare a presentation using only the materials given to them (no electronics) and presented their ideas to a panel of judges.
I read through the scenario that was given to these students the night before their presentations. They were to act as consultants for a mid-sized Ontario city. The city’s goal was to reduce their emissions of CO2 equivalents 80% by 2050, aligned with the provincial goal. The students were to come up with two feasible actions that could be taken by this city to help attain this goal. In addition to addressing the issue, they also had to relate their ideas to the four core topics of the Envirothon: forestry, soils, aquatics, and wildlife. Reading through this scenario, I was completely astounded by the degree of complexity and depth of thought that would be required by these students to successfully develop a solution. I thought back to myself as a high school student, and how much I would struggle with this… I don’t even recall learning about climate change when I was in high school!
I sat on a panel of judges with three other people who ranged from retired professors to sustainability professionals. We judged a total of three student presentations, and I must say, I was incredibly impressed with all of them! After reading the scenario the day before, I was skeptical at first of how in-depth the solutions would be that they came up with, but these students did great. Some of the ideas that I heard were to develop a municipal points system that would encourage citizens to collect points for using a bikeshare program, shopping at local farmers markets, or participating in other activities that would reduce emissions. Another idea was to develop a scholarship system to encourage university students in the city to develop innovative technologies to reduce emissions and research other possible opportunities. Another team planned to develop a survey that they would distribute to members of the community to further understand community opinions. Other ideas included a program to work with farmers in the area to lower their emissions while also benefitting economically, increasing forest corridors and green infrastructure, and establishing bylaws and mandates for large companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The ideas for solutions to reducing emissions that these students came up with were amazing. I was genuinely impressed with the depth of thought and evidence of knowledge that these students had on a range of environmental issues. Volunteering as a judge for this event made me so optimistic about what these students will accomplish in their future.