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Upper School Students Join in Global Climate Action
Upper School Students Join in Global Climate Action

"Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" This call and response of student voices in unison, accompanied by car and school bus horns sounding their support, echoed across the Princeton Day School campus entrance driveway, commons and all the way to the Smoyer parking lot before school began this morning.

Holding signs and banners on the sidewalk at the School's main entrance, a gathering of PDS Upper School Students stood in solidarity with their peers around the world to address global climate action. This morning's student group was accompanied by PDS faculty who supervised the demonstration to ensure safety and lend support. In addition to this morning's demonstration, several students have been excused by their families later this afternoon to participate in the larger community demonstration in downtown Princeton.

"PDS already has a lot of awareness around climate issues and we already do a lot in school, but we wanted to have more visibility in the wider Princeton community. That's why we chose to demonstrate outside of the school on The Great Road," participant Caroline Haggerty '20 stated.

Student Voices Being Heard Around the World

Student efforts like this are happening extensively today to mark the start of the Global Climate Action Strike, a week-long grassroots and youth-led protest spanning 150 countries. School students across the country and around the world have been spurred in part by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden. This teenager has garnered the attention of countries and world leaders with her concise, fact-based message about the threats of global temperature rise paired with an unrelenting demand for immediate action. She has also brought more squarely into the public eye the shared cause of many U.S. young activist groups, like the EnAct students and Climate Scholars at PDS, by ensuring that teenage climate change activists in this country joined her in her appearances this September in Washington, DC, and New York. The mass mobilization of young people for this week's global climate action makes powerfully visible the message that the consequences of failing to act today will be felt by tomorrow's global citizens. Greta Thunberg put it bluntly to U.S. lawmakers in Washington, and everyone else, as quoted in today's New York Times: "Please save your praise. We don't want it. Don't invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it."

A Strong Record of Sustainability Practices and Action at PDS

Princeton Day School is a leader among independent schools when it comes to supporting sustainability with environmentally conscientious actions and policies. In addition to earning a host of awards for environmentally sustainable practices, the School offers a robust program that educates students across disciplines about the importance of caring for their environment. School leadership is dedicated to lessening our impact on our environment: "It was clear to us that a 21st century education was not complete without teaching ecoliteracy and having our institutional behavior and campus model sustainable decision-making," states Sustainability Coordinator Liz Cutler on the Sustainability section of the pds.org website. To read more about the initiatives PDS has undertaken, such as our most recent partnership with ENGIE, click here.

The youth-led demonstration held today at School highlights the self-motivation of PDS students and their active commitment to responsible global citizenship. Many of the student leaders that organized today's demonstration are members of the EnAct Club, a student-run club that focuses on environmental activism and ways of creating change, including helping organize and host New Jersey's premier annual climate summit for high school students.

Several PDS students also participate in the Energy & Climate Scholars program, which involves a year-long commitment to studying complex issues and potential solutions around the causes and consequences of climate change problems affecting populations and regions across the globe. The program involves a partnership with several Princeton University graduate students, who meet with the PDS student members roughly one evening per month throughout the school year to present data and discuss specific topics around energy and climate. The PDS Energy & Climate Scholars also play a key role in organizing the student-run climate summit. One of the highlights of the program is its interdisciplinary approach. For example, at this year's first evening session next week, three graduate students from the departments of Architecture, Economics and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will present and lead discussion on the topic, "Climate Change 101: What We Know and How We Know It."

Abby Weinstein '21 is a member of EnAct and Energy & Climate Scholars who also attended the sustainability-focused Island School through PDS. She explains, "This is an issue that demands action now. It's up to the kids to act. The earth is warming, ocean levels are rising, people are dying. This issue should be uniting us. We intend to have a group outside every Friday going forward to focus attention on the need for action."

US English teacher Tom Quigley, whose American Lit. class Abby took last year, says, "One of the things I think we do best is help students find their individual voices. Once their voices are unleashed I have faith they're going to effect positive change in the world."

Today our Upper School students came together in a peaceful yet powerful way to speak up for a global issue that affects all of us. They have demonstrated thoughtful intentionality both in the ways they are leading and participating in the Global Climate Action Strike.