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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Danville, California, USA

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Danville, California, USA
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JuliaM



Registered: December 2008
Posts: 1
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Amid the vibrant sway of sea-fans and brilliant flashes of yellow and turquoise as parrotfish darted between purple tube-sponges, something disturbing caught my eye—patches of dead coral, bleached ghostly-white. My family had been invited to join our marine biologist friends, who had received a government grant to map the coral reefs in Bonaire, and our dives into the famously pristine reefs revealed both breathtaking wonders and troubling evidence of rising ocean temperatures. On shore, marine scientists from around the country who had congregated for this project shared harrowing tales of Antarctic leopard seal attacks and shark feeding frenzies in South Africa, but these stories were overshadowed by woeful observations of a far deadlier threat: global warming. Their words, combined with what I had seen in the reef, confirmed my belief that climate change is a terrible fever ravaging the world’s ecosystems, demanding immediate attention. My urgent queries of what could be done to help, however, were met with resigned shrugs. “Switch to compact fluorescent light-bulbs,” someone suggested. “Reducing carbon emissions is really all you can do.”
I knew this was sound advice, but I felt dissatisfied. I wanted to do more, to take significant and immediate action. We were facing an ecological crisis—surely I could do more than home improvements! Back home, I brainstormed project ideas with my family; it was my little brother, actually, who came up with a winner—to get solar panels and renewable energy for the schools in the area. It seemed perfect: not only would it reduce community carbon emissions but also protect schools from rising energy prices, helping them cope with the recently proposed school budget cuts.
Enthusiastic but unsure of how to proceed, I found solar organizations in the newspaper and online and attempted to contact them, sending bottled messages into the vast, uncaring void of the internet. Amazingly, one reached shore: Helios, a Berkeley non-profit that provides renewable energy resources to schools, showed interest in the project and offered to help. My science teacher took me under her wing, championing the project and helping me negotiate with the principal and school district, and I formed a group of interested students. Tom Kelly, representing Helios, came out to speak to us, sharing his innovative financial model for solar and schools. He explained how to make the project cost-neutral, stressing community outreach, and warned us that dealing with bureaucracies is endlessly frustrating but we shouldn’t give up hope.
He was right—when we reached the school district, progress was tortuously slow: it would take several months to elicit a response. Over the summer the project lay dormant, so I volunteered at Helios, where I compiled a resource database for Berkeley’s Ecology Center, including programs and websites for students, teachers, and local governments interested in reducing their carbon emissions. I was also asked to research and call solar-focused non-profits and California legislators to distribute a study on the benefits of solar. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I plunged into the work, and, despite some uncomfortable moments under skeptical interrogation, I was soon skillfully conversing with non-profit leaders and legislative aides, getting a thrill each time I was able to connect with someone—a tangible accomplishment.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kelly and I continued to pester the district, and by the end of the summer we finally secured a meeting. We presented both the project and the financial model, and the district officials were impressed: the project was the first of its kind, not only because of the cost-neutral financial plan but also because it was initiated by a student. The district Director of Maintenance sent an e-mail to my school administrators, supporting the project and commending my passion and conviction.
The district is currently forming plans for solar at my school, and I even got to meet the solar vendors and guide them through the campus when they came to evaluate the roofs. Once the district and vendors reach a decision about the cost of the project, I’ll be working with my student group to raise money to offset the initial cost of installation, approaching local businesses and oil companies for donations and matching grants and participating in other fund-raising activities. I would love to see some panels go up before I graduate, but even if that doesn’t happen I’m proud for having started the project.
· Date: December 31, 2008 · Views: 4386 · File size: 19.0kb, 150.8kb · : 1125 x 1500 ·
Hours Volunteered: 200
Volunteers: 20
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 to 18
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 5
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