By Lili M. and Théa S., Class of 2019
Earth Day 2019 came with much fanfare after the recent wave of environmentally centered protests and lawsuits. BFS decided to mark the occasion by dedicating a collection period to student led workshops addressing various environmental issues relating to the US food industry, waste, and sustainable eating. The workshops took place in the third floor classrooms of our Lawrence building and were open to all upper school students and teachers. Workshop themes included Global Access to Drinking Water, led by Kaley B., ‘20, which used fun trivia and prizes to teach about “growing worldwide disparities in access to water and on our rapidly depleting freshwater sources.” Other workshops including Sammantha H.’s workshop, ‘Veganism,” and Addison V., Jade L., Willa V.’s workshop “Chicken Industry,” amongst many others, addressed increasingly important topics and crises including food access inequality, the impact of the food and health industry, and various diets and their impacts on the environment and ourselves.
The entire event was organized by the Earth Day Club led by Milly B., ‘20 and Lily E., ‘20, and administered by students in this club in addition to other BFS student activists. Earth Day Club has been responsible for BFS Earth Day events in both the upper and lower schools throughout my four years at BFS. I still remember the Earth Day 2015 event that took place when I was a freshman. It was a school wide trivia game which taught us pollution and recycling statistics. The following year, I joined Earth Day Club and led a workshop on food waste and sustainable grocery shopping for Earth Day 2016.
This is what Milly had to say about the planning process for this year’s event:
“We chose to do sessions rather than activities because we found that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion about these topics. I personally think that the nutrition parts of our health classes should do better in educating students about the important impact our eating choices have on our environment. I tried to create a mix of sessions about how to improve eating habits, like those on veganism and vegetarianism, with sessions that were more educational, like those about inequity and environmental apathy.”
Her approach proved effective as there was much positive feedback from BFS student attendees after the event. This is what a few students had to say about their experiences attending and/or leading workshops.
“Something that I had to confront was my western belief that it was third world countries that don’t have clean drinking water, but when I did research I learned a lot about Flint Michigan or other places that we don’t think about… I think that people became more conscious of the fact that there could be chemicals in your water…” (Kaley Block ‘20 on leading a workshop)
“It was really interesting to learn about how we think about climate change and how that impacts what we do about it… it’s something that is not talked about enough. Even perspective can change your action — I know it changed how I think about climate change.” (Kai K. ‘22 after attending Minerva M. workshop titled “Environmental Apathy in an Oppressive World.” )
“It definitely changed my perspective I mean I can’t eat chicken anymore, now that I know about the horrible abuse of chicken and workers on top of the negative the environmental impact that the chicken industry has.” (Eve L. ‘22 after attending her classmates and friends’ workshop titled “The Chicken Industry”)
Clearly, this event had a definite positive impact in the Brooklyn Friends community, on the workshop attendees, as well as club leaders – many of whom detailed not only learning about the topics they presented but also about activism and effective leadership methods. Milly says as much in a reflection on the outcome of the event:
“Overall, the event was a success, motivating students to think more about food choices and ask more questions about food and the environment. However, it will take much more than one day to make a significant impact. I hope to do more on this subject in the future, especially including teaching students how to properly use the compost that we fought to have and next year’s very tentative theme of fast fashion / the clothing industry.”
Student organized and led action such as this is crucial to spreading information and igniting youth activism. None of it would have been possible without a community like BFS that allots club spaces and time slots for students to explore and share the things that matter to them with the BFS community.
Inspired by their amazing work we decided to create a video interview series with Brooklyn Friends students asking them about their views on climate justice, environmental sustainability, and how they can contribute to the fight for the Earth. You can view the video here.