Climate Change: Do Students Care?
It is undeniable that there has been an increase in environmental awareness globally, and even nationally in Panama. It is also undeniable that ISP is trying hard to keep up. A schoolwide focus on climate has been building up the past years, which becomes clear by looking into what students have been up to.
A group of ISP students recently helped introduce a carbon tax to Panama’s politicians through a lobby together with “Ciudadanos por un Clima Vivible”. It started around six months ago when student Gigi Hodes attended one of the “Fridays for Future” protests in Panama that are held to address the lack of action surrounding climate change. Here, she met Tamara Kellog, a co-founder of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) or “Ciudadanos por un Clima Vivible” in Panama. This organization, originating in the US, works to pass climate regulation legislations by directly approaching politicians. They have been working on a carbon tax, known as a Carbon Fee Dividend, meant to create an economic incentive to move to greener fuels and products. The tax is applied at the source of the product (such as mines and ports) and the money is redistributed to the people to account for the increase in the product’s prices.
During Panama’s recent elections, the organization met with candidates to propose the bill and discuss whether they would back it when they are in office. Gigi introduced the organization to the school, and recruited a team of ISP students and teachers eager to help.
(A few of the members at the lobby together with Juan Diego Vasquez, the youngest deputy in the Assamblea Nacional)
First they were taught lobbying skills to use when they visited the Asamblea Nacional to introduce the law to politicians and discuss how feasible it is for Panama. Not only did this provide first hand lobbying experience for the students, but also marked a step forward for Panama as a whole. More information and details can be found on the Clima Vivible website: “https://panama.climavivible.org/”.
ISP itself is working hard to provide more opportunities for students to participate in similar projects. There are school-wide clubs (such as the Sustainability Club) and service trips (such as beach clean ups, and even one that addresses the invasive Sea Lion species) which are becoming increasingly more elaborate.
A big step was when the Student Council welcomed a new member: Environmental Liaison Julia Hietavirta, who is also the chair of the Eco Committee. Their current goal is to make ISP and Eco School, which is a program run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (more information about FEE found on: https://www.fee.global/).
There is a seven step process to obtain the Green Flag that identifies an Eco School, starting with creating the committee, implementing an Eco Code (which can already be found on the ISP website), and choosing three themes to focus on every two years. This is a circular process where problems are assessed, feedback is taken from the community, and solutions are implemented.
The committee’s current focuses are: climate change, biodiversity, and waste.
So far they have built a sapling nursery, planned systematic tree plantings, worked on a new website, and middle school students are creating a YouTube channel to share steps that everyone can take to help. Julia is head of the recycling branch, so she is taking inventory of the recycling bins (to address the multiple overlapping systems) and is planning a uniform labelling system which will coincide with Panama’s specific recycling abilities.
We can see that not only is progress being made, but people are truly committed to it.