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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Fairfax, Virginia, USA

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Fairfax, Virginia, USA
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emma42



Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: Fairfax
Posts: 1
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An online course in Sustainable Urban Development first propagated my passion for the field, and as I delved into themes such as urban growth, resource recycling, and energy systems, I became fascinated with the way that sustainable alternatives can function within our current cohesive society. Living on the outskirts of a metropolitan region has provided the perfect opportunity to observe the contrast of conventional and alternative pieces in effect; over time, I have become increasingly aware of how each contributes to the infrastructures that shape our day-to-day. Yet these structures are in constant flux, and rightly so; it's beautiful that, in the same way that love turns children into kind and conscientious adults, cities can be nurtured to exist in harmony with their natural surroundings: not static habitats, but living, breathing entities. Electricity is the lifeblood of my local entity, what maintains the delicate online web connecting me with my peers, gives me access to my education, and allows me to draw from the vast breadth of information available in the modern day. Electricity pumps life into humanity, but at the precious cost of the Earth's vitality. In an age where technology enables cleanliness of energy as well as efficiency, the necessity of nurturing cities towards environmental sustainability grows by the day.
This philosophy compelled me to begin advocating for cleaner energy in my school system by collaborating with students from different schools to create Solar on the Schools Summit (SSS) in the fall of 2017, expanding on an initiative begun by graduated FCPS students. Their idea was to have the School Board adopt solar by means of a Power Purchase Agreement, an economic financing plan where solar companies bid on the terms by which they will provide solar to the consumer. This is highly advantageous to the consumer, as it promotes competition among providers to give the best possible service at the lowest possible price, and allows the consumer to receive an economic plan tailored to their needs. I believed strongly in the feasibility of this plan, but wanted to bring get more students involved; thus, SSS was born. Its purpose is to provide a group for environmentally driven students to together push for our school county to implement solar energy. The goals of our project were: to spread environmental awareness, educate our peers and community on renewable energy, and ultimately, incorporate solar panels into our school system's energy sources. September was the first time SSS appealed to the School Board as a cohesive group, presenting our petition with 1,700 signatures supporting solar for our schools and delivering speeches on the educational, environmental, and educational benefits of clean energy. I personally spoke to solar's environmental benefits, expanding on how greenhouse gases work, how conventional energy sources contribute them to the atmosphere, and why our county's energy infrastructure had to change.
At the beginning of 2018, we invited students from schools around the county to join us in our push, recruiting about fifteen delegates to represent our cause at environmental functions around the area. I became President as the group grew, directing delegate attendance to events, inviting community leaders to speak at our meetings, and organizing collaborations with other student and political groups in the area to present a united front for solar. In February, the School Board incorporated a sustainability initiative into their 2019-23 Capital Improvement Plan, ensuring that, if the CIP were passed, that all future school renovations and construction projects would have to account for support of renewable energy sources. For example, if a new roof were installed, that roof would have the capacity to support solar panels. That CIP will be voted on in January of 2019, so I thought it crucial that SSS not only continue its campaign for solar in the year between proposal and vote, but in doing so fulfill the pillars of educating and spreading awareness that we were founded on. With that in mind, I began guiding SSS in a new direction, one that cast our message to larger audience, and one that drew from that larger audience to educate ourselves more deeply on solar and how it functions mechanically, governmentally, and economically.
First, I began sending delegates to broader array of public events, while speaking at rallies myself. In May, I gave a speech at the Mother's Day Climate Rally, alongside Virginia political representatives Chap Petersen and Elizabeth Guzman, on the importance of natural preservation for future generations. In September, I was interviewed by GreenTV on SSS's work over the past year, and able to broadcast our future plans and invite the general public to get involved with our project. All the while, myself and delegates kept attending local environmental events, such as a forum on climate change at JMHS with representatives Tim Kaine and Cory Booker, the Northern VA Solar Congress, and even local roadside protests against pipelines and conventional dirty energy. Wanting to maintain balance between spreading our cause to a broader audience of people and keeping the School Board aware of the growing support of clean energy, I implemented a system in our group where every delegate attended one School Board meeting every other month, and one "extra event", like the climate form or Solar Congress, each month.
In October, our outreach culminated in the Board unanimously committing to future action against climate change, and commending SSS for leading the charge in climate advocacy for our region. What meant even more was that almost every Board Member was able to offer supporting commentary for their decision, speaking to why our planet is important to them and why they felt compelled to protect it. I was privileged enough to represent SSS as a speaker at this meeting, thanking the School Board for their decision and thanking the other advocacy groups, mentors, and activists who had helped us along the way.
It is from collaborations with these advocacy groups, mentors, and activists that SSS has achieved what it has today, and will continue to achieve in the near future. We connected with the Climate Reality Project last spring, and they in turn put us in contact with the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions at a Sierra Club Rally over the summer. Through speaking at the October School Board meeting, I met an environmental lawyer who was able to share decades of experience in the solar industry with our group. Through her, we met the CEO of Ipsun Solar, a small solar installer in the DMV region, and learned both about roof evaluations for solar and how a small company may bid on an installation contract with large customers like Fairfax County. At the Solar Congress, we met an organization called Gen180, who decided to begin documenting our progress over the course of the next year to provide startup environmental groups an example of a developed community activist group. As a result of interacting with these diverse groups with similar goals, I, along with my fellow delegates, learned invaluable lessons about the way our world functions. We learned that environmentalism comes in many faiths and ages; learned the ins and outs of passing a clean energy bill and how small companies function in an age of monopolized energy. We learned how media can create movements, learned how powerful the voices of a blossoming generation can be when they shout together.
This past year, full of School Board meetings and collaborations with political groups, has pushed me to champion environmental protection in ways I had only dreamed of before. As I coordinated guest speakers, reached out to students around the county, and spoke at rallies and School Board meetings, I graduated from timid to self-assured, and I know that several around me did as well. At that fateful October School Board meeting, hearing Ryan McElveen describe the aftereffects of climate change as "an amalgamation of the chapters of Dante's Inferno," and subsequently cite SSS as its significant factor in the Board's decision, coalesced keystones of my identity that were years in the making: my passion for environmental protection, development as a public speaker, and inspiration to nurture my city to function in tandem with the natural world. Today, as I survey what my path into the future, paved by a mosaic of my experiences thus far, I see a future in the field of Sustainable Development, where I'll continue to weave sustainability into the fabric of global society. I begin this journey next year, wherein I will pursue a double major in Sustainable Development and Anthropology at Columbia University. During college and beyond, I'll venture to places far and wide, work in locales both exotic and familiar, but my goals will remain the same: to foster environmental awareness, educate the public on living sustainably, affect positive, sustainable change in the communities I encounter, and ultimately, help the sun's rays shine on a better tomorrow.
Date: December 31, 2018 Views: 663 File size: 15.2kb, 1581.1kb : 4032 x 3024
Hours Volunteered: 3,000
Volunteers: 15
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 18
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