WEST HIGH SCHOOL (copy)

Environmental education students and their teacher look at solar panels atop West High School in 2001. The Green Club is raising funds to add to the array. 

The rising collective awareness about the dangers of climate change was most vividly illuminated in 2016 when 195 signatories signed the Paris Climate Accord. Although this accord provided some the opportunity to continue to challenge the need for humanity to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, the 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change terminated any doubt about the threat that human-related carbon emissions pose to life on earth. The IPCC urgently called upon all of humanity to cut 45 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. Each of us, in each community, must adhere to the goals established by the IPCC so as to protect life on earth. There are signs that we are beginning to do just that.

A movement is happening in our schools: Students no longer accept the reality of only learning about climate change in classrooms that contribute to it. As a high school English teacher and adviser of the Madison West High School Green Club, I bear witness to students actively working to address the threat of climate change. Over the course of the past two school years, Green Club members have embarked upon a project that provides interested citizens the opportunity to make a tax-deductible, charitable contribution of $500 and be recognized as a sponsor of one solar panel on the school roof, with each donor being recognized on a plaque that will be constructed by students (westgreenclub.org). Projects such as this illustrate that climate change can begin to be addressed one action at a time, one solar panel at a time.

Beyond projects that bring renewable energy to a particular school building, students are beginning to unite beyond their individual schools into groups such as the Mad Youth Climate Team. Students within groups such as these are encouraging the Madison Metropolitan School District to develop plans to acquire energy from renewable sources consistent with the IPCC guidelines. These students have begun a petition to galvanize support around a clean energy resolution that they encourage the school district to embrace (100renewmadison.org).The resolution will be introduced at an upcoming School Board meeting.

Student-led projects such as these should inspire all of us to transition to renewable energy as rapidly as possible.

While students are focused upon ensuring that they will be learning in settings that do not harm the environment, many of our local leaders are bringing forth clean energy resolutions so as to ensure that our governmental buildings and vehicles do not contribute to climate change as well. Local leaders in Madison, Middleton, and many other communities have passed these resolutions, which resolve to transition their communities to renewable energy sources as rapidly as possible. The leaders who have pursued such resolutions should be applauded for their commitment to a sustainable future. Citizens who agree with similar pending proposals in communities such as Fitchburg, which will vote on Feb. 26, and Monona, which will vote on March 4, are encouraged to contact their local representatives to ensure that every local community meets the goals established by the IPCC.

Citizens of the world are becoming collectively conscious of the dangers that carbon emissions are having on the environment. Each of us can find ways to reduce our carbon emissions through increased efficiency, going solar, buying electric vehicles, and, when possible, donating to and investing in causes that transition our society to renewable energy sources and a sustainable future for life on earth.

Patrick Grady, of Fitchburg, is an English teacher at West High School and adviser of the school's Green Club.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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