Thursday, September 21, 2017

Jen Kretser On Her Work With The Youth Climate Program

Jen Kretser is featured as the “Trailblazer” in the September/October edition of the Adirondack Explorer. Read more about Jen in the issue, which you can get through the Adirondack Explorer app. Download it from iTunes or Google Play.

Work on climate change is hard. And emotional, says Jen Kretser, director of programs for the Wild Center and project director for the Youth Climate Program run through the science museum.

It’s devastating, for example, to watch a community in Sri Lanka affected by “crazy flooding” when they themselves produce no carbon emissions at all, she said.

Read about why Jen loves Norman Ridge!

More fun facts about Jen.

But then she has a day like this one: Kretser had two different projects connected to the Youth Climate Program coming together simultaneously, demonstrating the hope that can come from seeing youth intent on making the world a better place succeed. She was in Albany with three student climate leaders presenting to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Office of Climate Change about how they all might work together. After leaving the meeting “elated that the students could be in this space and have a voice at the table,” she looked at her phone to see photos from another student presenting the film about the Adirondacks and climate change A Matter of Degrees in Sri Lanka.

“I had a student sending photographs on the other side of the world, and I was here in the U.S. with students working on the same thing. It was incredible,” Kretser said. “The grief that comes with this work is real. Sometimes it’s curl-up-in-a-ball real. Then I have a day like that one.”

The work of the Youth Climate Program, which began in 2008, has been recognized widely and repeatedly — by the White House under President Obama, by the United Nations with invitations to the U.N. conference of the  parties (COP 21) in Paris, and the Environmental Protection Agency (in 2015, Kretser received the agency’s Environmental Champion Award). The program produces an annual summit organized by youth climate leaders to bring more young people together to explore and implement climate solutions while encouraging others around the world to do the same.

Ask Kretser how the Wild Center found itself at the forefront of this initiative, and she’ll tell you this: “Because we were asked — by a sixteen-year-old student.”

In 2008, the Wild Center held an invitation-only national climate conference, with science leaders from all over. They also invited some local students. After the summit, they got an email from one of the students, Zach Berger, asking “why everyone [at the summit] was so old.” From that, the Youth Climate Program was started.

“It’s gone from an email in the middle of the night to a program that’s gone global,” Kretser said. “For us, it was the perfect vehicle to convene dialogue and empower students to take action on it.”

The Wild Center provides the structure for students to get involved and supports them. They can participate in the annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit at the Wild Center (the 2017 summit will be in November). Or they can download a toolkit to host a summit in their own community or school. Summits are happening around the state, the country, and the world. But the advocacy comes from the students.“They define it,” Kretser said.

If food is their concern, they might plant a school garden. It might be that they care aboutsolar and, as one school did, create a solar-charging station for cellphones. The students themselves had to go to the school board for approval and then figure out the logistics.

“They feel a sense of accomplishment once it’s done,” Kretser said.

And the program is creating a movement among the young people to effect change. At least two alumni from the program have gone on to create youth summits at their colleges. And from that comes more hope.

“This is the most-connected, most socially aware, environmentally conscious generation,” Kretser said. “They recognize there is a problem, but they are ready to take it on. They are the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.”


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Tracy Ormsbee

Tracy Ormsbee is the publisher of the Adirondack Explorer. When she’s not working – and it’s not black fly season – you can find her outdoors hiking, running, paddle boarding or reading a book on an Adirondack chair somewhere.

11 Responses

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    SL has always been prone to flooding. Please don’t poison the minds of our children and tell them any excessive heat, cold, drought or rainfall is “climate change”.

    • Dan Bogdan says:

      More CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in higher average ocean temperatures which results in more water evaporation from oceans which results in more rainfall than normal which results in more flooding which results in more misery. Simple thermodynamics and statistical analysis. Hardly poison for our children but a great science lesson.

    • JohnL says:

      It’s too late Brian. All this hoopla about climate change that’s centered only on flawed computer ‘models’ is already being taught to our kids as ‘settled science’. In science, nothing is settled.

      • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

        Is JohnL a scientist? I’m guessing not. from his comment. Is he an expert on science and the scientific method? I doubt it.

        It never ceases to blow my mind that people in this day and age, who benefit in uncountable ways from settled science, cast doubt upon the theories and evidence they find inconvenient or not in their holy, sacred self-interest. They do it by employing easy, ignorant statements like “In science, nothing is settled.”

        Good scientists are always testing hypotheses, making new discoveries, and exploring flawed or incomplete theories. In that sense the progress of science is never settled. But that is nowhere near the same thing as an ignorant denial of an established theory that in the scope of its descriptive and predictive power, is simply correct.

        Imagine someone suggesting Newtonian mechanics is not settled science. They’d best never get in a car again – or, for that matter, go hiking in the Adirondacks. Bernoulli’s principle is not settled science? Don’t get on a plane. Don’t go birding either: there won’t be any birds flying. Maxwell’s equations are not settled? Forget modern telecommunications, and your precious smart phone. Faraday’s work not settled? Oops, no electricity in the house. Hell, Quantum mechanics is a big complicated, silly mess, with no unifying theory. Surely that’s not settled! Kiss computers and digital TV’s goodbye, no Monday Night Football for you. Evolution? Bye bye modern agriculture and our massive progress towards ending starvation. Cell biology? We can go back to life expectancies that were half of what they are now, if you like.

        On the scale of all these great scientific theories the evidence for anthropomorphic climate change is pervasive and powerful, not just a bunch of computer models. We should be deeply interested in what science is telling us about it, because no human achievement has proven to be more “settled” than scientific progress. It’s not even close.

        Or we can just be selfishly ignorant.

        • JohnL says:

          I’m an engineer Pete, but you’re right, I’m not a climate scientist. Are you? I can, however, look at reports and data and form opinions on my own. I’m just telling you a few years in advance of when it will be common knowledge, that the climate is not changing as fast as is being projected by the doom and gloom crowd. More importantly, our ability to change or reverse the trend that’s suggested, is very limited. Just giving you a heads up. That’s all.
          BTW, our President did the right thing in saying we’re withdrawing from the Paris accords. He gets it. It’s nothing more than an attempt to redistribute wealth from us to ‘them’.

          • Boreas says:

            “All this hoopla about climate change that’s centered only on flawed computer ‘models’ is already being taught to our kids as ‘settled science’ ”
            “I’m just telling you…that the climate is not changing as fast as is being projected…

            So is it all “hoopla” or is your argument the RATE of climate change is uncertain? I have heard no one state with certainty they know how fast it will change or exactly what will happen. Climate change IS settled science. It has changed since water and air showed up on Earth. Kids are being taught that climate change is still happening. The RATE of change will clarify as our predictive models and predictive abilities change. Luckily most people understand this. Just as our daily weather predictions are simply that – predictions – those computer models are usually pretty close, even if they not perfectly accurate.One can choose to believe them or not. Personally, I don’t wear shorts when a blizzard is predicted.

        • Marsha Stanley Marsha Stanley says:

          Great job at calling a spade a spade, Pete. I want to copy and paste this to reuse!

        • JohnL says:

          “Good scientists are always testing hypotheses, making new discoveries, and exploring flawed or incomplete theories. In that sense the progress of science is never settled.”
          Above are your words, not mine. As a teacher, I assume you know the difference between a hypothesis, a theory, and a ‘law’. My main argument is that your climate science is at the hypothesis stage, certainly not at the law stage, which is where you seem to say it is. Too, from all I’ve seen and read, that’s where it will probably stay. I’m done. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that. Going outside. Have a beautiful day.

  2. Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

    Bravo Jen.

  3. Marsha Stanley Marsha Stanley says:

    So proud to call Jen a friend. And so proud of The Wild Center!, the little museum that could in Tupper Lake, for its big news today on a grant to create an exhibit on the native peoples of this place.

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