US / Canada Youth Bond on Environmental Issues – By Terese Crocker and other team members.
From July 2 to July 8, seven youth from the Digby Neck and Islands area took part in an environmental conference in Newburyport, Massachusetts, conducted by the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI). It is a an educational conference, where home teams – teams of youth from all over the Gulf of Maine – convene once a year to reflect on what they have been doing at home, while trying to strengthen their knowledge, skills and determination.
These conferences involve many field work days, multiple instances of public speaking and leadership, and reporting back to peers and adults with what they have learned, and what they plan on taking back home.
One crucial element of this week is the formation of theme teams. Each home team is split up into these theme teams. This gives each youth an opportunity to meet the other home teams, collaborate, learn from them, and as equally important, see the struggles and triumphs that the communities, big or small, located in the great Gulf of Maine watershed.
This year there were six different theme teams: human impact, water quality, climate change, sustainability in Newburyport, invasive species, and storytelling. There was at least one member of the Islands and Digby Neck team in each five of these groups. Here are some of their personal experiences:
Human Impact on the Great Marsh – Shealee Newman
“My theme team was Human Impact. That week I learned a lot more than I thought I would. I discovered that we not only have a carbon footprint but also a nitrogen footprint as well. It was truly very interesting to learn about these topics; I know so much more than I did going into it.
One day we went to a marsh and learned about their experiment with putting nitrogen into the fertilizer that they flooded the marsh with. It made everything grow a lot more but it also had a bad impact. The marsh grass just grew on top of the soil instead of making its roots go deep to get nutrient; this resulted in lots of erosion. I mean why would they when all the nutrients they need are at the top.
There was also quite a big problem with garbage. The most frequently recurring piece of garbage they found was helium balloons. You know when you let them go they have to go somewhere. So all in all we learned quite a lot that week. I had a blast and I’m sure the rest of my teammates did as well.”
Climate Change – Faith Titus
“This was my first time at a GOMI summer conference, so it was my first time being in a “theme team”. My team was focused on climate change and its effects on our world today and in the near future. The leaders in my group were Jamie Steeves of Sackville, NB and Pete Furlong and Charles Nutter, both of Newburyport. They were excellent at teaching us new things and giving us interesting ideas to consider and think about.
Sadly I missed one whole day with my theme team because I was dehydrated, but when I got back we had a very special guest with our group for two days named Alan Palm. He shared a very detailed and interesting presentation with our whole GOMI crew. It focused on what an average American citizen does to our planet in their lifetime and how climate change is affecting every single person on this planet. The last day Alan was with our group we went to Palm Island and did a beach survey. We got to see how far the water line and storm surge line went up with only a meter of sea level rise. Using our data calculations we figured out that most beach side homes would be destroyed and that there would be no beach left.
The other part of the survey was to ask men, woman and children about climate change and their view of it. I personally found with my research that many people did not care or worry about climate change, nor did they think it would affect them.
After all of our duties were over our group went for a swim, except for Lauren Atkinson, Imogene Robinson & I because they didn’t feel like swimming and I forgot all about swimming and I was wearing a knit top and skinny jeans; extremely disappointing considering it was about 80 – 90°F all week. At one point I was asking people for a knife so I could turn my jeans into swim shorts, but sadly I didn’t find one.
The day before we came home our theme group decided we were going for a walk in the woods. It was an interesting adventure, first we walked through poison ivy, then Chris Orlando got a nose bleed, and we got lost several times, but finally we found our way back to The Governors Academy. It was a very interesting adventure, but all in good fun.
Later that day we had our team presentations to the whole conference and to a special panel of important people, including the mayor of Newburyport, an executive of TD Bank, past headmaster of Governors Academy, and many more. For our team presentation we divided ourselves into groups of two. One team member portrayed an uninformed person asking the “stupid” questions and the other represented an expert on climate change who responded correctly and accuracy.”
Sustainability in Newburyport – Terese Crocker
“This past week I was involved in a bike tour of the city of Newburyport. We were shown why this historic and traditional city is now also classed as a green city. Some reasons as to why the city is now green are because local businesses are becoming sustainable, being operated by renewable resources, mainly the sun and the wind. We also saw the middle school and how they are teaching the youth that they do not need to be completely dependent on fossil fuels as there are solar panels on the roof. Other initiatives we saw were waste water treatment, recycling, and composting facilities.
There were other things we saw, which were promoting community closeness, collaboration, and sustainability, one example being the Clipper Rail Trail. It is a non-motor trail where people can walk, bike, or use other non- environmentally harmful means of transportation to get places safely while maybe seeing a friend along the way.
The big message that I received from the whole tour was to think before you act and do the right thing in the first place. This really hit home for me when I saw the landfill. It is now being capped, but it is still there, and who knows what disgusting things are seeping into the ground from there right now as we speak. With this said, I feel that Newburyport is a role model when it comes to sustainability, as they have pushed to be green, yet have also acknowledged their mistakes, one key component of being a role model in my opinion”
Sustainability in Newburyport – Ashley Smith
“This summer conference for the Gulf of Maine was amazing. There were tons of new faces and some old familiar ones. My theme team this year studied Newburyport as a sustainable city. In this group we biked all around Newburyport, Massachusetts looking at and visiting sustainable aspects of the city. Even the bikes we all used were refurbished and are being shipped out to Kenya for school teachers to get to school with. I enjoyed this group a lot; it gave me hope for a bright environmental future.”
The experience of this conference is of great importance. It teaches and spreads awareness in the adults of tomorrow. These youth participants, past and present, have all been positively impacted by GOMI, many having gone into work with the environment or leadership roles that can make a difference. Never forget that the youth of today are going to be serving tomorrow’s youth and so on, and initiatives like the GOMI are crucial to bringing this concept alive.