Stu­dents to at­tend en­vi­ron­ment sum­mit

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

As­cen­sion Col­le­giate en­vi­ron­men­tal group Gaia will be one of 30 teams, and the lone rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Canada, to at­tend a sum­mit in Cal­i­for­nia fo­cus­ing on ways to re­duce plas­tic waste.

The Plas­tics are For­ever In­ter­na­tional Youth Sum­mit will take place in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, from March 11-13, and will in­clude youth from 14 coun­tries. The ed­u­ca­tional sum­mit, or­ga­nized by the Al­galita Ma­rine Re­search Foun­da­tion, is de­signed to help young peo­ple find ac­tion-ori­ented so­lu­tions to re­duc­ing plas­tic waste in their com­mu­ni­ties.

As­cen­sion sci­ence teacher Pa­tri­cia Ge­orge, who started Gaia at the school 10 years ago, says she first found out about the sum­mit through the New­found­land and Labrador En­vi­ron­ment Net­work.

“ When we heard about this youth sum­mit, we just thought im­me­di­ately that it would be an amaz­ing way to get ex­pert help for flesh­ing out this project prop­erly.”

From there, her group put to­gether a pack­age out­lin­ing de­tails of the project the As­cen­sion group would un­der­take to re­duce the use of plas­tic in its com­mu­nity.

The group’s win­ning en­try was cho­sen from among 74 oth­ers. Rep­re­sent­ing the school at the sum­mit will be Ge­orge, stu­dents Crys­tal Lee Jones, Am­ber Samms, Justin Stone, and Zach Tut­tle, and vice-prin­ci­pal Daniel Grimes.

The sum­mit will fea­ture a va­ri­ety of guest speak­ers, in­clud­ing sci­en­tists, film­mak­ers, and me­dia ex­perts, amongst oth­ers.

Ge­orge says is­sues con­cern­ing the use of wa­ter and plas­tic bot­tles were al­ready on the group’s agenda fol­low­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion given by pro­vin­cial en­vi­ron­men­tal group Project Green at the school last year. Gaia had also been en­cour­aged to tackle the plas­tic prob­lem af­ter at­tend­ing the RADHOC Youth Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence at Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity of New­found­land (MUN).

The group is putting to­gether a pro­posal to re­place drink­ing foun­tains at schools with al­ter­na­tive drink­ing and wa­ter-fill­ing sta­tions. The pro­posal would also en­cour­age the use of re­fill­able stain­less steel con­tain­ers and bisphe­nol A-free wa­ter bot­tles. Bisphe­nol A, or BPA, has been de­clared a toxic sub­stance in Canada and is banned from use in baby bot­tles.

“ We’re also go­ing to be pre­sent­ing to the East­ern School District,” says Ge­orge. “ We’re hop­ing they will come on board, and over a num­ber of years, re­place the wa­ter foun­tains with wa­ter-fill­ing sta­tions.”

Sim­i­lar de­vices have been in­stalled at MUN, and Ge­orge says the uni­ver­sity is also phas­ing out sell­ing bot­tled wa­ter on cam­pus. She hopes the trip to Cal­i­for­nia will be of ben­e­fit to the project.

“ They are go­ing to be show­ing us how to make a max­i­mum im­pact with our pre­sen­ta­tions and with our project in gen­eral.”

The trip to Cal­i­for­nia will be one of Ge­orge’s last Gaia re­lated en­deav­ours be­fore she re­tires from teach­ing in June. She says no teach­ers have thus far expressed in­ter­est in tak­ing over the group once she leaves.

“I’d like to see it con­tinue,” says Ge­orge, who will re­main an ad­vo­cate for the en­vi­ron­ment once she ex­its the class­room through her in­volve­ment with the joint man­age­ment com­mit­tee of the Shearstown Es­tu­ary.

In the mean­time, Gaia will be hold­ing fundrais­ing events to help the stu­dents at­tend the sum­mit.

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