At Cypress Bay High School in Weston, one student is leading the charge to make sure her classmates don't lose momentum to act on climate change after last month's Global Youth Climate Strikes.
Senior Nicole Buckley, 18, had prepared a field trip for around 60 students from Cypress Bay to go and participate in the September strike in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The night before the strike, the field trip was canceled, according to several students and a teacher.
That didn't stop Buckley from missing class to strike on her own. Then, she organized a meeting with administration at the district and at her school to see what she could do next.
Buckley didn't want her classmates to miss out on climate change education. So, she and a couple of other students organized a Climate Literacy Assembly at Cypress Bay. The assembly took place during school hours on the Friday after the first local strike. Several class periods, as well as study hall classes and some teachers, heard Buckley and a few others, give student-led presentations about sea-level rise, resiliency in Broward County and ways to become politically active in the climate change conversation.
WLRN sat down with Buckley in Library Park in Weston, a few days after the assembly to hear how it went.
WLRN: How did you discover for yourself that this is such an important issue?
BUCKLEY: I'm in debate and it's often an impact that comes up. It's used as, like, a bottom line impact, to justify a position, like a means to an end. At the end of my sophomore year, I just decided to look up local climate organizations, and I immediately got involved with Cleo [Institute, a climate education and advocacy nonprofit].
The Cleo Institute puts trainings on for environmental speakers. You went through that training. What did you take away from that experience?
What I got out of it is you can't cover everything because otherwise you're going to lose people. So we had to make those decisions at that this assembly that we just had. We couldn't talk about climate gentrification, even though I desperately wanted to, because we had to make sure that the students there were engaged. It was just an intro stage. You have to know who your target audience is and be able to know how to convince them.
Knowing our student body, we knew that humor was gonna be really important. And so we did have some pop culture references within the presentation. We had pictures of the sea level rise and what would happen to Weston. Sometimes you feel like isolated from it, like, 'Oh yeah, like Florida's gonna go underwater,' but we wanted to show them what Weston would look like in the next 30 years. The Weston Hills Country Club was the only thing that wasn't going to be underwater. And so, we just pointed out that if they wanted to stay in Weston, they'd have to like camp out on, like, the golf course.
For the most part, we did go over sea level rise and how that affects the economy and things like that. And we also talked about what the people who were there could do. So we talked about small little lifestyle things: eating less meat, using recyclable and reusable products — but we also wanted to make sure that we addressed how they could engage in systemic change.
So, we told them they could send letters or email their representatives. We told them they can engage in youth climate activists projects like we had the Friday before, and after the assembly we were, like, 'There's voter registration outside!'
We are seeing that some people did know about it. Some people didn't. Some people were on their phones the entire time, sometimes you can't really do anything about that.
What did your parents think of your climate advocacy?
So, my mom actually works in the petrochemical industry. She does believe in climate science. And, my dad needs coming around. My mom has been a lot more supportive about what I'm doing. At first, she definitely wasn't — she was like, 'Why are you doing this? Like, I know it's important, but like, you need to focus on school.' So she wasn't as supportive before, I do think she's a lot more supportive now, because I think she sees that, one, [sic] I'm really passionate about it and that like, I don't know, I'm doing something. I'm not just going to school.
What is next for this? Are you going to hold more climate literacy assemblies?
In our computer science classes, maybe we can go in and talk about potential computer science solutions for climate change, and things like that, or we would go into the health classes talk about the health problems and effects that climate change brings to that.
So, I think if we give more specific talks that are geared towards the people in these classes, I think that will also be a new way for them to make the connections that they couldn't make before.