by ELIZABETH ENDERLE - Westfield Environmental Club members respond to Cooper Tinsley’s speech on climate change to the Westfield City Council.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (June 10, 2019) - Westfield City Council had a long agenda of both old and new business scheduled for their meeting on June 10, 2019, but before the proceedings began, a special guest addressed the council. Cooper Tinsley (10), President of the Youth Climate Accord of Westfield, presented a speech on the issue of climate change to the City Council, accompanied by many of his peers from Westfield High School.
“We really wanted to get a couple of green and sustainable resolutions passed by the Westfield City Council,” Josh Fassnacht (12), President of the Westfield’s Environmental Club, said. “We had some members from Environmental Club come to support and to show youth representation and why this resolution is so important to Westfield.”
Environmental Club council member Maddie Kilgore (10) found that Cooper’s speech discussed the club’s initiatives, both from a local and global perspective.
“Cooper talked about what the UN released about the millions of animal species dying out, and that 99 percent of the world’s animal species are already dead and how sad that was,” Kilgore said. “He just tried to open the eyes of the council members and give an introduction to what we’re going to be doing. We have a lot planned for this school year, like climate strikes and protests and zero-waste cafe.”
A zero-waste cafeteria is a major issue that the club is looking to address in the coming year.
“Right now, we’re working on a huge bin process, where there’s one giant bin and a couple different sections, one for aluminum cans and one for plastic bottles,” Clare Smyth (10), a fellow member of the Environmental Club council, said. “Then, we’re trying to see if the cafeteria can package less because everything is over-packaged. I get that everything is shipped to the school in packages, but once you package it and put it on a tray, they put extra paper under it, and that’s unnecessary.”
Another issue that the Environmental Club is looking to address in Westfield High School is the school’s recycling system as a whole.
“We really want to see more sustainable and green actions take place, such as… better recycling processes done at our school, because obviously our recycling bins are more like glorified trash bins, which is kind of the common joke,” Fassnacht said. “We really want to create these bins that divide all the different wastes, tins and metals, the different plastics and paper, and make sure that it all gets recycled correctly and filtered correctly to the right places. There are a lot of different sustainable things that want to get done, and we’ll see what we can get passed and accomplished in one year.”
Something that has been difficult for the club throughout this process has been dealing with misconceptions about climate change.
“A lot of people don’t know the intricacies and details of climate change,” Fassnacht said. ”Before the term ‘climate change’ really came around it was simply called global warming, so that’s a misconception because global warming is an aspect of climate change and natural disasters and such, so a lot of people don’t necessarily know what comes along with climate change. It’s a lot of different things that affect and can potentially harm the planet and every part of the earth and at some point could become irreversible if we don’t act.”
Some of these misconceptions have even impacted the school community.
“A lot of people, especially political leaders, think that it’s fake, and I think that when political leaders say that, then of course, people like students would be believe it too,” Smyth said. “I think more than half the students in the school don’t really care, because they’re like ‘Oh, it’s fake. It’s never going to happen.’ ”
Fassnacht, however, had a more positive outlook on student awareness and found that current high schoolers, more so than generations prior, see climate change as an issue.
“We see it becoming a much bigger concern in our age group and in our school, definitely,” Fassnacht said.
The activists shared words of encouragement for those in Westfield looking to help slow climate change.
“Even if you can’t get involved personally and do cleanups, there’s always ways to donate,” Kilgore said. “Lots of people say that they can’t do anything about it, but you can donate to specific organizations, and there are just lots of ways to help. You may feel like it’s not making a big difference, but it really is, so just get involved.”
Fassnacht believed that more student participation could not only change other students’ perspectives, but adults’ perspectives as well.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up,” Fassnacht said. “The more voices we have about climate change, the bigger the issue will become to the people in charge.”
Smyth saw Tinsley’s speech as a great sign that their efforts were reaching beyond the Westfield High School community.
“I really like Cooper’s group YCA--Youth Climate Accord--because he brought the attention outside of Westfield High School, but it’s still in Westfield,” Smyth said.
Considering everything the Environmental Club has planned for the coming year, Kilgore believed the speech showed great promise of things to come.
“There’s so much we could do locally to solve the problem, so I think [Cooper’s speech] was a really good start to opening people’s eyes,” Kilgore said.