PDS Climate Scholars Gather to Discuss Environmental Justice
PDS Climate Scholars Gather to Discuss Environmental Justice

To be a PDS Climate Scholar -- an extracurricular program advised by PDS Sustainability Coordinator Liz Cutler -- roughly 20 Upper School students must apply for selection, then commit to seven on-campus working-dinner meetings with Princeton University climate scholars (complete with pre-work and a lot of challenging conversations), participate in sustainability-related initiatives throughout the year, plus take responsibility for hosting an annual climate conference.

And every year, says Cutler, the group is more than up to the task. "Not only are these PDS students learning deeply about energy and climate issues and getting to know some of the leading graduate students in the field; they understand that they're helping affect change that will help their generation and all that follow," Cutler notes.

Every month during the school year (except December and June), these sophomore, junior and senior PDS Climate Scholars gather in the Upper School library with graduate students from Princeton University to eat, talk and learn from each other about urgent topics related to energy and climate. The Ph.D. students hail from around the globe and bring expertise that ranges from energy security and technology to climate science, policy and socio-economics. To prepare for each dinner, PDS students read specific papers in anticipation of the TED-like talks given by the grad students on their current research.

Exploring Environmental Racism and Climate-based Refugees

February's theme of environmental justice featured presentations on February 26 by Princeton University's Hélène Benveniste, Woodrow Wilson School; Megan Eardley, Architecture; and Samantha Hartzell, Civil and Environmental Engineering. Our students prepared by reading articles from the Washington Post and NY Times on the frequency and severity of environmental contamination based on socio-economic and racial status, and the correlation between climate change and refugees.

Ellie Schofield '20 and Harjap Singh '20 provided insight into the evening in this joint statement:

"First we explored environmental racism, the unfair exposure of people of color to environmental hazards such as 'sanitary' landfills or nuclear waste facilities. The most interesting part was when we saw a map of Trenton in the early 1900s with clear evidence of how the city was divided and how the waste sites were placed based on who lived where.

"We then discussed the ways in which millions of refugees across the globe are impacted by issues related to to climate change. We broke into three groups to debate possible solutions, supporting relocation, advocating adapting to the effects of climate change, and supporting the need for enhancing government institutions and resiliency measures.

"These conversations demonstrate how nuanced the issues really are and how there aren't one-size-fits-all solutions when dealing with climate change and its consequences. The Energy and Climate Scholars Program allows students to get a grasp on tougher environmental topics such as racial inequity and 'climate refugees' in the sustainability field and provides the platform to further our learning."

Preparations Heating Up for May 11 NexGen Climate Summit!

Another key responsibility of being a PDS Climate Scholar involves helping organize the annual student climate conference, a gathering PDS has organized and hosted for the past several years featuring several climate-focused organizations and high school students from around the state. This year's event, the NextGen Student Climate Summit, will occur on May 11 at the Watershed Institute.

The students have been working incredibly hard since this fall to plan the NextGen Summit while also managing all of their academic and other extracurricular responsibilities. To learn more, go the the NextGen Student Climate Summit page on the PDS website.

PDS Climate Scholars include: seniors Eleanor Myers, Lydia Wu; juniors Jake Bennett, Alex DiNovi, Zaiya Gandhi, Eric Leung, Audrey Liang, George Ma, Ellie Schofield, Harjap Singh, Krithika Vasireddy, Eyal Yakoby and sophomores Nikita Bhardwaj, Benjamin Bigdelle, Hope Jerris, William Morrison, Tharun Potluri, Aaliyah Sayed, Hannah Van Dusen, Yishi Wang, Abby Weinstein.

- Melanie Shaw