The leaders of tomorrow aren’t easy graders when it comes to the future of the planet.
St. Louis Park High School students became the teachers Monday evening, filling out a climate change report card on the St. Louis Park City Council during its regular meeting. And many of the grades wouldn’t place it on any honor rolls.
The council got a D-minus for its zero emissions plan, the teens announced. Carbon removal? Only a C.
It did better on waste (A-plus) and renewable energy (A-minus). Overall, the teens decided, the council secured a B-minus grade on its Youth Climate Report Card.
The council’s acknowledgement of its marks was not unlike that of a dejected student after a disappointing semester. Mayor Jake Spano said the results reminded him of his own report cards growing up, along the lines of “He does a fine job, but he doesn’t apply himself as much as he could.”
“I think we do good work, but we can do more and we can do better,” Spano said.
The St. Louis Park High School environmental club, called Roots and Shoots, is made up of forward-thinking teens who say they’re fed up with inaction on the environment as they watch their favorite pieces of nature slip away and see others struggle.
Worried about what they’ll have to face when they’re older, they also submitted a resolution to the council to create a St. Louis Park Climate Action Plan.
“The time to act is now. We shouldn’t have to be afraid of our future,” said Jayne Stevenson, a junior and youth member of the city’s Environment and Sustainability Commission.
‘We need to be pushed’
The Youth Climate Report Card is a science-based tool offered by iMatter, a national youth climate organization, that grades cities on how they’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions to blunt climate change’s worst effects.
An arm of the program, called iMatterNow, helps about a dozen high school campaigns pushing city councils to act. The St. Louis Park meeting was the first campaign presentation to a city council.
The high school students pointed out where the city is excelling, commending its recycling and composting program, and noting its high average on renewable energy.
But the teens were serious about the lack of a climate action plan. That’s why they submitted a draft resolution to the council for a plan to decrease the city’s “greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would protect our community’s children and grandchildren from the risk of climate destruction.”
The city recently put together its Environment and Sustainability Commission, and council members said they wanted the students to continue their work.
“We need to be pushed,” said Council Member Anne Mavity. “We are trying to be very forward-thinking but we can do more. Help us do that.”
Their planet, their voices
Owen Geier, a St. Louis Park High junior, has been visiting the Boundary Waters since he was young. He’s afraid he may no longer be able to see the same things when he’s older.
Geier said that he and his peers know how difficult it can be to encourage an environmentally friendly mindset. The group led a composting program at the high school a few years ago, but he said some students still don’t see its importance and pitch trash into the wrong receptacles.
Though the students are tired of waiting for change, they’re optimistic that it can happen, said Larry Kraft, executive director of iMatter and mentor of the Roots and Shoots group. Sophomore Lukas Wrede, who spoke at the meeting, gave Kraft a hug after the City Council meeting and thanked him.
“We’re just starting, right?” said Kraft.
“We are, we are just starting,” Wrede said. “I really hope so.”