Climate summit called a success

Island students and educators take environmental matters into their own hands.  


Martha’s Vineyard Charter School senior Aiden Donovan wasn’t sure what to expect at Friday’s first annual Youth Climate Summit. “Will there be enough people?” he asked. “Will we get everything together in time?” We walked toward the Fern and Feather barn on the Felix Neck campus, which hosted the all-day event. The 200 or so engaged, energized, and empowered students spoke for themselves — the summit was a staggering success.

Donovan was one of three students on the leadership committee central to Friday’s event, joined by MVRHS juniors Emily Gazzaniga and Owen Favreau. But the summit was a team effort made possible by educators, staff, students, and volunteers at Felix Neck, the Charter School, and MVRHS.

“When Josey [Kirkland] came into the classroom and said she wanted to bring a climate summit to the Vineyard, I immediately volunteered to be part of the leadership team,” Gazzaniga said. “I’ve had a growing interest in climate change. This is our future, and something we need to handle immediately.”

Kirkland is the environmental educator at Felix Neck, and has spent the past year working with students in the Protect Your Environment (PYE) clubs, as well as students and educators at the Charter School and High School.

“We worked through the winter developing this,” said Jonah Maidoff, longtime teacher at the Charter School. “Josey and I have been going back and forth on this whole thing with the students.”

“The involvement, questions, and inquiries from the kids have just been next-level,” Kirkland said. “This day has gone better than I ever could have imagined.”

The summit started at 8:30 am with breakfast and a welcome. Food was donated by a number of Island groups including Vineyard Grocer, Little House, Pasta for the People, M.V. Kimchi, Chilmark Chocolates, the M.V. Bread Project, and Scottish Bakehouse.

Students from fifth to 12th grade from the Charter School, regional high school, and lower schools in Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury broke off into roundtable discussions. Topics included food justice, sea level rise, sustainable shopping, renewable energy, sustainable fishing, agriculture and farming, and waste reduction. At 10 am, students heard from keynote speaker Matthew Arsenault, a technical information specialist from the U.S. Geological Survey. Students broke off into more roundtable discussions touching on architecture, sustainable fishing, air quality, civic engagement, and ecological impacts. Lunch coincided with climate presentations by juniors and seniors at the Charter School.

“Their big projects were on climate change,” Maidoff said. “It’s pretty in-depth, and required a lot of initiative. They had to go out in the community and conduct interviews. We even have a podcast.”

High school science teacher Louis Hall was a key player in preparing for the Climate Summit, as was Charter School science teacher Jane Paquet.

“All of our climate cafes, education, and project morphed into this big event,” Maidoff said. “It’s active and real. Students aren’t playing, they’re engaging people in really thinking about their environment.”

The group broke out in an activity period, which included an upcycled T shirt craft, a “needs and wants” exercise, a movement activity led by educators at the Yard, and a walk through the Felix Neck sanctuary. The event concluded with students coming up with a Climate Action Plan.

“Think about topics from today that you find most compelling or driven to action to,” Kirkland told the group. “Flesh out a plan for how you can implement change in your jobs this summer, or if you go to camp this summer, or if you travel. Or maybe get something ready to start at the next school year. Make an action plan together. One person can make a difference, but collectively, you are that much more powerful.”

Kirkland left the group one more message. “You are the kids, the future that’s going to make a difference in this world,” she said. “And the adults you see around you, we support you, fully. You are not alone in this.”


  1. Climate change is inevitable and has nothing to do with the existence of humans. It’s borderline criminal what are school systems are promoting. It’s a monumental hoax. It’s too bad we allow these educators to promote a social agenda with no basis in fact.

    • bs your comment is complete BS — how can you say that the fact that the earth’s average global temperature is rising virtually every year is some sort of hoax? Your assertion that here is no basis in fact is not only a joke, but it is in fact the real social and corporate agenda of people and corporations that do not care about the planet. Only money matters…

  2. The vast majority of scientists(95+%) believe climate change is real, and that man has had a significant influence on the changes to our planet. Take any other topic and if 95% of the experts agree, then it’s done, however, for some reason some think this is still open for debate. Climate change deniers and flat earth people. No different.

  3. BS I have to agree with you. America has done more than any other country to promote environmental care. Maybe these kids should take a look at China and ask “why is everyone walking around with air filtering masks on”? The pollution of foreign countries is what’s going to harm us and our environment. The banning of plastic bottles and straws is brilliant “snowflake” idea. I can only hope an equal amount of time is spent teaching these young folks the difference of legal immigration and illegal immigration.

    • moved– let’s test you on legal immigration– a family of 4 is living in a country where their lives are in danger for political economic and social reasons. They walk 2000 miles to get to the “land of the free and the home of the brave” –you know that country with that big statue that has an inscription on it. So this family arrives at the border and requests asylum. Are they legal ?
      How about an attractive young woman from Slovenia that pulls some strings , gets to the United States on a visitor visa, and then illegally works in the “fashion” industry by selling images of her naked or nearly naked body, Taking a job away from some attractive young American woman willing to do that. Is she legal ?
      And quit blaming everyone else for our irresponsibility– U.S is highest polluter per capita by far.

  4. Climate change is real – not a hoax. Man contributes to climate change, how much is a guess. The real debate issues are: Is there anything man can do to stop or slow its progress? And At what cost? Especially when considering Moved to Maine’s observation that other countries with large populations may not invest in helping make changes. However, less plastic straws and bottles don’t cost anything. Solar panels on the Vineyard yield a positive rate of return. Hybrid cars on the Vineyard pay for the cost differential compared to gas only cars. These are things we can do to slow our contribution to climate change and have the by-product of less pollution generally. Lets do the things we can do. Even if all we do is slow down the inevitable, it will allow populations in danger, like knuckleheads that live on an island, some time to adjust.

  5. The global warming hysteria has been going on for 30 years. Just one question, why isn’t the Black Dog Tavern under water by now?

    • bs — the black dog is not under water because sea level is currently rising at a rate of less than 1/8 inch a year. 30 years ago it was about 1/32 nd of an inch. Any more questions ?
      perhaps you can’t do the math– let me help — lets average this out– in the last 30years sea level has come up about an inch and a half.
      why would you think the Black dog would be under water ? no one has EVER suggested that over a 30 year period sea level would put an establishment like the Black Dog under water– your comment is not only ignorant, but deliberately divisive , directed at other ignorant people. Shame on you —

  6. Don Don
    If your fleeing your country from crime, rape or whatever unlawful acts are happening why would you display your countries flag on your so called trek to this awesome country. If you think those illegal criminals walked two thousand plus miles your wrapped up in the “feel good blanket. You saw as well as I did the truck loads of illegals being transported to our border. Don Don explain to me the amenities. such as food, water and best of all cell phone chargers that were provided to those caravans of ILLEGALS. You know your surrounded everyday by illegals driving illegal cars and getting paid illegally in the way of cash under the table. Maybe your ok with this abuse but I’m not and will do everything I can to keep these criminals out of our country and I will welcome those who do it legally. I’d love to live in the carribbean but I can’t just go there and squat illegally there’s a process and it doesn’t included climbing border fences, fighting Border Patrol or being in violation of immigration laws. I wonder how many illegal immigrants your willing to house and take care of until they’re get back on their feet??

    • Moved — do you think that because your country has been overrun by criminal gangs ( mostly funded by U.S citizens ) tyrannical dictators and a collapsing economy you would just disavow your citizenship?
      When the Irish fled Ireland because of the potato famine, did they not carry with them the pride of their citizenship ? When the Jews fled Europe because of an insane racist tyrant, did they not still feel pride in their country of origin ? And then you say these people are “criminals” in case you haven’t heard in the United States , you are innocent until proven guilty– i just heard that from so called president trumpertantrum today. Yet you, somehow deem all these people criminals– is that not the definition of a racial stereotype? And some people have this thing called compassion– Jesus urged us to show it, and many people will help the destitute find a better life. The great majority of these people are not criminals , just as the great majority of Americans are not heartless racist. Unfortunately, there are some on both sides.. Seeking asylum is not a crime–

    • moved– since you ask me about housing asylum seekers , let me pivot and ask you how many unwanted babies you would take in if abortion becomes illegal ?

  7. To the others
    Can you give a good alternative to plastic water bottles? Let’s keep in mind a family of 6 come out for 7 days and going to the beach everyday. Is the answer reusable containers? I’m not sure why more burning of plastic for energy use is not being mentioned in these “feel good” articles.

  8. Don Don
    Before you fire off incorrect facts again.
    China #1 emitter of carbon dioxide in the world followed by Russia and India.
    Open your eyes and ask yourself is the fight of no plastic water bottles worth it??? Almost everything you’ve touched so far today is or has plastic in it.
    There are far greater things to focus on then friggin water bottles and straws!

    • moved–
      my facts are correct
      your link does not work
      Try this
      U.S. is second only to China.
      India and Russia combined are way less than us.
      That’s total emissions.
      I said “per capita”. That means each person–
      This from the Union of Concerned Scientist:
      “Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions
      2015 total emissions country rank Country 2015 per capita carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion (metric tons)
      1 China 6.59
      2 United States 15.53
      3 India 1.58
      4 Russia 10.19 ”

      And you are correct– there are more important things to focus on. Like CAFE standards for cars– look up who raised them , and look up who lowered them.

      • Union of Concerned Scientists……pay your yearly dues and you become a “scientist”. Are you a “scientist” as well?

        • Bs –Look at your cell phone– it’s a half pound of dirt, and billions of hours of “science” don’t believe that there are smart people out there ? be a phone denier. Why is it that you take all the other “science” as truth, and deny this one branch? I may not be a scientist, but you only have to have an IQ of about 50 to understand climate change– the only reason you do not believe it , is because you choose not to.
          I could go around claiming that cell phones can’t possibly tell me how to get somewhere, because the “so called scientist” creating the technology are getting paid, but that is not the truth.

          Your comment is about as valid as if I said pay your dues and get to play with the red sox.

        • bs —-“Huh ?” exactly.
          Did you just decide that your “facts” wherever you got them from are correct, and my facts, from one of the most respected organizations in the world are incorrect because for some reason the more than 200,000 people who are part of it just all get together and make things up ?
          Do you really not believe the numbers ??? Just made up ??
          Come on– lets have a REAL conversation.

          • Thank you! This is child’s play. The Union of Concerned Scientists took up the global warming agenda 30 years ago when they realized the fall of the Soviet Union would drastically diminish their income stream from other concerned ” scientists”. Previously they counted on the fear mongering of nuclear war to raise funds. When the US won the cold war they scrambled for a new cause and global warming fit nicely. You may call me a climate denier, I would suggest you’re a reality denier!

        • bs— this is not childs play–your comment is total conjecture– no basis in fact or reality — your name sake actually– why can’t we have an actual discussion about reality ? You read some conspiracy blog somewhere and think the worlds leading scientist are lying about all sorts of things ( except cell phones and x boxes) and call me a “reality denier? you got to be kidding —

  9. PS… I learned in third grade from our beloved teacher Mrs Adams that our island was under TWO miles of solid ice 10,000 years ago.then things started warming up!
    Are you calling my teacher a liar? Global warming started 10,000 years ago and there were no human’s around!

    • Tis native– didn’t your 4th grade teacher tell you that humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years ?
      And your third grade teacher was a little off on the time frame.
      By the way, that last ice age you talk about was caused by natural fluctuations in the intensity of the sun that dropped earths average temperature by 12 degrees f. over the course of thousands of years. The sun is currently in another natural long term cycle that is again cooling the planet. But the increase of co2 in the atmosphere is overwhelming that. I am concerned about a 4-8 degree rise in a span of a hundred years.

  10. There were humans around 10,000 years ago. “…anatomically modern Homo sapiens (existed) in Africa about 315,000 years ago. Humans began to exhibit evidence of behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago.”

  11. OMG, I guess old Mrs Adams did lie to us children just like the teachers today about humans, straws and cow farts are the cause of global warming and AOG is lying too about the world ending in 12 years!
    At least my teachers and politicians weren’t purposely scaring the H*** out of us little kids!

    • tis–I wont say your beloved teacher lied to you. a lie is a deliberate misrepresentation. When i was in catholic school, the nuns told us black people were black because it was gods punishment for cane killing Able– we speak different languages because humans tried to get to heaven by building the tower of Babel., and by the way, no rainbows ever existed until after the flood– god created rainbows then to remind us that the next time she decides to wipe us out, she will burn every one of us to a crisp. (she is so forgiving )
      And, by the time i was out of 5th grade, I had already condemned my grandchildren to retardation
      because I was a bad boy and “the sins of the father are passed on to the third generation”And if you did not accept Jesus as your personal savior, you would burn in hell for eternity– no scaring there , I guess–
      None of those good catholic nuns were scaring us !!!
      who or what is “AOG” ?
      And, no one but right wing nut case media is talking about the world ending in 12 years– If your doctor told you that you had colon cancer and it would be a good idea to treat it in the next year, does that mean you will be dead next year ? or does that mean that if you wait, the cancer will likely advance to a point that is incurable ?

      Can you find a single reference to straws contributing to climate change ? can you tell me there is no methane in cow farts ? And– just so you know, about 5% of the methane released by the digestive system of a cow is released through the anus– the other 95 % is released through burping.
      Sorry, you teacher was wrong, but I would doubt she would have intentionally lied to you.

    • Tis, when I was an undergrad, there 108 elements on the periodic table. Now, there are at least ten more. My professors were not lying to us, though. That was what was known at the time.
      We were taught by those same professors the expressed hope and the imperative that we students must someday know more than they did. Science is a process. Twenty years ago, the American Heart Association included a drug called vasopressin in its cardiac arrest algorithm. A few years later, vasopressin was removed from the algorithm. It was shown not to increase survival rates better than epinephrine. That doesn’t make the AHA liars. Medical science adapted as new evidence became available.

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