Everyone is aware that climate change is warming polar ice caps and killing off wildlife. We know it is causing harm to the environment around us and we know it needs to stop. But, it is such a vast problem and to stamp out the alterations to our surroundings forever we basically need to reinvent the way we live. And that will take so much time. We need to focus on working with the environment, not against it, and this is exactly what GOMI concentrates on.
For those of us who live in Manchester or Essex — and all the way from the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia to Cape Cod — we are on The Gulf of Maine. An institute was founded over a decade ago to educate the students of the region about what they can do to preserve The Gulf of Maine’s biodiversity and environment. This institute came to be known as GOMI – [The] Gulf Of Maine Institute. GOMI is an international group, including seven teams: four from Canada and three from the states — Barrington, Digby/Islands, North Queens, Nova Scotia; Tantramar, New Brunswick; Newburyport, Manchester Essex, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire.
The Manchester Essex Green Team lead by Director Eric Magers has worked tirelessly to make our schools impact on the environment significantly less. Most of a schools waste comes from the lunchroom, and to solve this problem, the Green Team tries to compost as much of the waste as possible. The rule of sorting the lunches into specific bins according to compostability or not isn’t often followed by students so one of the Green Team Scholars (Jackie Rose) is planning a way to reduce the cross-contamination of the lunches. Composting will save the school thousands of dollars a year.
The school emphasizes local eating and to further enhance the belief in this there is a garden on campus, an “edible schoolyard”, from which the school can get hundreds of pounds of fresh produce that go directly into the lunches. The disposal of classroom waste is also a big matter in the Green Team: they have devised a system for each classroom to sort waste into three categories – anything recyclable (paper, plastic, etc.), trash, and TerraCycle, which consists of materials such as chip bags that have to be recycled specially. Some of the Green Team members who have shown a keen interest in keeping our school green have been chosen to participate in GOMI, both at the mini-conference and at the week-long summer workshop.
GOMI, thanks to all the people who keep it well-funded, is able to host three gatherings -two mini conferences (one in the US, one in Canada) and one week-long summer gathering where all teams get together and divide up into “theme teams” which aim to teach the students about different aspects of The Gulf of Maine that we can work to preserve and protect.
July 1-7: The MERSD team along with the six others traveled to Byfield, Massachusetts, and Plum Island to work with our chosen theme teams. Some teams, like Photography, captured nature and learned all the settings on a camera to get the best picture to live up to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Others, such as Compost, built structures to make buildings more eco-friendly. They constructed a composting facility on the site where we stayed for the week, the Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center. Urban Forestry worked on maintaining the trails around Adelynrood and learning the names of many of the species native to this area and the invasive ones who pose a threat to the indigenous species. Water Quality tested the water in the Plum Island Impoundments – manmade fresh water marshes that provide a habitat for many of the endangered species and other small bodies of water around Newburyport. Climate Change studied what their name implies – how humans are impacting Earth and what we can do about it. Natural Capital dug into ecosystem services (what an ecosystem does for humans, such as the salt marsh filtering water) and how they would be impacted if an oil tanker ran aground in the relatively shallow water of the Plum Island Sound. And, Looking to Our Future “looked” into what the people at Adelynrood could do to make the center more beautiful and sustainable.
The six MERSD students who participated (Charles Tullercash, Urban Forestry; Sasha Ball, Photography; Lindsey Duff, Natural Capital; Jon Garcia, Climate Change; Maddie Conway, Natural Capital; Jackie Rose, Water Quality) all work in the MERSD Green Team to make our school a greener place to learn. GOMI is not so much a vacation camp but a place to work – up at seven and in bed by ten. The week is full of long days, but there is still some free time, and despite the green heads and heat, everyone in the MERSD GOMI team thought that the week was engaging and exciting. Next year, the conference will be in Nova Scotia and everyone is already anticipating seeing international friends and working more on the ongoing problem of protecting the Gulf of Maine.