DUNDALK — The issue of climate change has been proven time and again to be a complicated, and often polarizing, issue across the United States.
Baltimore County is joining the fight against climate change. County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. announced recently the formation of a Baltimore County Youth Climate Working Group, which is comprised of high school students from around the county. The purpose of this working group is “to better engage young people in the County’s ongoing efforts to adopt sustainable practices and policies to combat climate change,” according to a Nov. 18 press release.
“We are already seeing the consequences of climate change in Baltimore County, and they will only grow more severe in the years ahead unless we take action now,” Olszewski said in the release.
“Youth voices are among the most important in the global fight for our planet because they will be the most impacted by our actions. We need their vision and passion to build a cleaner, greener and more sustainable Baltimore County.”
The Baltimore County Youth Climate Working Group consists of 17 students from around the county. Five of those students are from the Dundalk area. Melanie Flores, Chahat Kumari and Gurkamal Kaur attend Dundalk High School. Luis Cervantes and Asa Seay go to Sparrows Point High School.
Kumari told The Dundalk Eagle that she wants to get more people thinking about climate change and the impact it has on the planet. Climate change is something that can affect future generations if current generations don’t take control of it now.
Climate change has become a major issue discussed in today’s political climate. Kumari and Kaur said they don’t want it to be a bipartisan issue. Instead, they want to show people that climate change affects everyone, and that it should be a priority issue regardless of politics.
Kumari and Kaur said they were approached by Dundalk High School teacher Ronald Saul about the workgroup. They were his students in his 10th grade Living Systems class. Kumari and Kaur are both currently juniors at Dundalk High.
The Baltimore County Youth Climate Working Group held its first meeting on Nov. 18 in Towson. At the meeting, county officials asked the students their ideas to spread awareness about climate change and ways to get their communities involved. It was an inventory meeting, Kumari said.
Kumari and Kaur said they have ideas about how their own high school can take steps to curb climate change. One idea, they said, is to replace paper towel dispensers in high school bathrooms with hand dryers. Some bathrooms already have hand dryers, but not all, Kaur said.
Another idea is to replace the standard lights in the common areas with motion sensor lights. The lights stay on through the night so police can see inside the high school while on patrol. Replacing the lights with motion sensor lights would cut down on the use of electricity, Kaur said.
Kumari and Kaur both told this newspaper that they would like to organize an open forum and invite the community to discuss the effects of climate change on the planet. They would like to hold it in the Dundalk High School auditorium. They would also like to place literature around the high school to educate their fellow students about things like recycling and water use.
Initiatives to raise awareness about sustainability measures isn’t limited to just this workgroup. Sparrows Point High School students, along with students from other schools, designed high fashion outfits made out of recycled materials, to model down the runway at Sparrows Point High School’s Trashy Fashion Show, on Nov. 22.
Students from Sparrows Point Middle School, Chesapeake Terrace Elementary School and Edgemere Elementary School also participated in the fashion show.
To model the actions of reducing, reusing and recycling, the National Art Honor Society sponsored the fashion show with a “Grayscale Gala” theme, requiring students to use cans, trash bags, soda rings, old film material, packaging wrap and styrofoam to create their outfit.
By Sparrows Point High School being a green school — nationally recognized for their positive environmental endeavors — students and staff continue to work towards the goal of restoring the Maryland/Chesapeake Bay area.
The fashion show was created to be fun, while conveying the importance of recycling.
One of the Sparrows Point High School students, Seay, said he had no clue the group existed until he was told he was selected. He lives in Essex, and attends Sparrows Point High through the Magnet Program.
He said he was recommended by Kevin Peiser, his chemistry teacher, and Mellisa Kellerman, who is the Science Department Chair. He said he was called into the office the day he was told he was selected. He told his teachers he was interested in participating, he said.
Seay said he wants to do his part to fight climate change because he sees the impact it has had on the Chesapeake Bay. Areas near the Chesapeake have seen flooding and have shown evidence of wind erosion. He wants to continue efforts to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the planet, but make those efforts more impactful. He said he feels current efforts aren’t being taken seriously.
Seay said he attended the Nov. 18 meeting in Towson. Additional topics discussed were how to students could raise awareness in their respective high schools, and how social media could be an effective tool.
Cervantes and Flores were not available for interviews.
Sean Naron, Baltimore County Executive Press Secretary, said a second meeting has not yet been scheduled. The county is working with all high schools involved to find a date that is accommodating to their respective schedules.