On Saturday, climate activism organizations and environmental experts hosted the Peninsula Climate Collaboration Summit at Gunn High School, leading discussions on California’s sustainability goals and showcasing local climate initiatives. 

Gunn senior Katie Rueff, one of the event’s organizers and a co-founder of the Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition, said, “I hope participants walk away with new connections and new tools to try. I think that as soon as you find what you enjoy being involved in, you start to feel more able to get deeply involved in climate activism. I think that’s the most exciting part because that’s when you find your community and feel more impactful, which a lot of people struggle with.”

Gunn junior Angelina Rosh added, “I was involved in creating one of the workshops, and it was kind of hard to appeal to the youth, so that was one of the challenges, but I think we pulled it together.” Indeed, the event brought together both teens and adults from around the Bay Area.

The event’s schedule.

The summit began with remarks from State Senator Josh Becker and Professor Michael Wara, policy director of sustainability at Stanford University’s Doerr School of Sustainability. They spoke about California’s recent climate-related legislation and the impact of climate change on California, from droughts to wildfires.

Dr. Ali Nouri, an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, then presented on climate policy under the Biden administration, highlighting the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which provides $369 billion to fight climate change. He stressed the importance of cooperation between the federal government and smaller communities, explaining, “We are putting out a lot of dollars into states, cities, companies, and nonprofits who are going to be leading these transitions. It’s really important to give us feedback.”

Diane Bailey, the co-founder of Menlo Spark, a nonprofit based in Menlo Park devoted to electrifying 100% of its appliances, talked about local, city-based collaborations that facilitate this transition. Also a member of Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), she emphasized the importance of “focusing on equity and trying to deliver energy to low-income households and to underserved communities that really need assistance,” citing PCE’s recent donation of 100 solar panels to households in East Palo Alto.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt spoke on the city’s climate policies, including new electrification efforts. Burt said, “This is going to be the future for us over the next few years: a huge transformation in technology.” He continued, “Climate protection is not a spectator sport. We all are going to need to talk to our friends, our neighbors, and our family to do the work that’s needed to really make this transformation possible.”

After a Q&A panel with the speakers, participants attended small group sessions of their choice. The 12 sessions included a conversation on getting students involved in climate activism, an optimistic presentation about climate “good news,” and a discussion about different types of energy storage.

To students interested in getting involved in climate activism, Rueff said, “Start by letting it seep into your life a little more often, whether that’s through conversations, attending events, reading through forums, or finding the intersection between climate activism and whatever you’re interested in.” She continued, “I think just saying, ‘Go find your intersection with the climate’ is much easier said than done, but going to events like this can sometimes give people a taste for a bunch of different things.”

Local environmental organizations set up tables, and, after the event, participants checked them out to learn about their efforts or get involved. These organizations included Stanford Energy Club, Menlo Park Climate Team, Neighbors Abroad, Sustainable Silicon Valley, Acterra Action for a Healthy Planet, Palo Alto Student Climate Coalition, Youth Community Service, and Palo Alto Rotary Club.

Bailey, who ran Menlo Spark’s table, said, “There is a place for every student who wants to get active in climate activism, whether it’s through Menlo Spark, the Menlo Park Climate Team, or other organizations like Acterra. We are always eager and willing to work with you and hear your perspective, and help you become active in the measures and activities that you’re passionate about.”

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