On September 15th and 16th , 2017 the inaugural Utah Youth Environmental Summit (UYES) was held at Alta Ski Resort, near Salt Lake City, Utah. UYES was created to provide a space for environmentally conscious Utah youth to network and gain the skills needed to become leaders for statewide environmental justice and sustainability efforts. Workshops, guest speakers, and outdoor activities were held to achieve these goals. Piper Christian and Elizabeth Hansen, students from Logan High School, Logan City, Utah along with Mishka Banuri, West High student school student, Salt Lake City, Utah planned this event in order to create a statewide environmental youth network. As a group of youth leaders who are environmentally conscious and have the contacts and resources to do projects in their community, they would like to be mobilized for larger campaigns such as the Student Climate Resolution.
The Student Climate Resolution was initiated by several students including Piper Christian. In December of 2015, as a high school sophomore, she attended the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. She learned that ordinary people have the capacity to create extraordinary change in their communities. As she wrote in her article in the local media outlet, “We all have unique skill sets and perspectives to contribute to the climate movement, and when each of us takes action at the local level, our collective impacts can have a global reach. With this inspiration, I returned to Utah. I spoke with my high school environmental club, the Logan Environmental Action Force, about ways we could address environmental threats within Utah. While we were only a handful of students at that time, we shared an ambitious dream: to introduce a Resolution on Climate Change to the Utah State Legislature”. (link)
The Student Climate Resolution was based on pre-existing resolutions in Salt Lake CIty and Park City and outlines steps that the state will aim to take in order to combat the effects of climate change. Piper and her peers drafted a Clean Air and Climate Change Resolution to introduce to the local city council in Logan, Utah. To their surprise, Logan City Council passed the Resolution 16-06 unanimously on February 16th, 2016. (link)
As the next step, high school students introduced Climate Change Resolution at the Utah State Capitol. When they spoke with 28 legislators about the actions communities were taking to address climate change and encouraged them to sponsor their resolution, one of them, State Senator Jim Dabakis, became co-sponsor. They attracted national attention and students have contacted them from Massachusetts, Georgia, and Arizona to learn how they can take on similar initiatives. They circulated a petition in support of the resolution, that now it has over 2,000 signatures, demonstrating that Utahns care about climate action. Unfortunately, their resolution was not passed by the State Senate. But most importantly, they helped unite a coalition of students from around the state who care about environmental protection. (link)
As a result the first ever Utah Youth Environmental Summit was organized to rally students to be more active stewards of the earth. The Summit began on Friday afternoon and started with some icebreaker activities, which were followed by a catered dinner. After dinner a hybrid Beehive Collective presentation was given by Will Monger and Emily Hornback. The Beehive Collective tells environmental justice stories through art. The presentation was based on this artwork depicting the rise and fall of coal mining in Appalachia. They related this issue back to similar issues in Utah like the Black Mesa Mine.
Following this presentation, students had the opportunity to go on a stargazing night hike. Temperatures were at or below freezing, but students bundled up and braved the cold. Emma Larese-Casanova, an Logan High School student who attended the summit said, “I love stargazing!”
On Saturday morning, September 16th, 2017 many students got up before sunrise to go on a sunrise hike. The morning continued with an environmental club basics workshop followed by a spectrogram activity and a community organizing workshop. Non-profits and college campuses then had a tabling event which allowed students to talk to potential colleges about environmental involvement opportunities and learn more about the work that non-profits around the state have done. The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, the Audubon Society, and Yellowstone to Uintah Connection sent representatives to inform students about the work that their organizations are doing. Utah State University, Weber State, the University of Utah, Westminster, Salt Lake Community College, and Utah Valley University’s (UVU) Office for Global Engagement all attended and talked about opportunities for their students to get involved with environmental issues at the college level. Representative of Utah Valley University, let students know about opportunities to be involved with the United Nation via the Utah International Mountains Forum (utahimf.org) and the international Women of the Mountains conferences, hosted by UVU on regular basis depending on the availability of funds. (womenofthemountains.org). Students were also thrilled to be among the contributors to the United Nations International Mountain Day celebration which usually is commemorated on December 11th every year. This year IMD theme is “Mountains under Pressure: climate, hunger, migration.”
Students also had the opportunity to work with their schools to decide on a project to work on during the year. Project ideas ranged from guerilla gardening to starting a composting program at school. The resolution will be re-introduced at the next State Government session.
Carlos Alarco, UIMF