Stuyvesant Students Tackle Climate Change Through the BPA

Stuyvesant students combat climate change as Blue Planet Alliance youth ambassadors.

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By Madeline Goodwin

During a summer of record heat waves, droughts, and floods, the youth took action to generate climate change awareness. Through the Blue Planet Global Ambassador Program (BPGA), Stuyvesant students attended various events to discuss solutions for reducing negative human impact on the environment.

The Blue Planet Alliance (BPA) is an organization pushing for countries to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Currently active in Hawaii, Palau, Guam, and New York, the BPA’s youth ambassador program, BPGA, was created to provide students around the globe with a collaborative opportunity to fight against climate change. “Usually, the youth [doesn’t] have a say in legislation or how companies should function to [reduce] their impact on the environment. Blue Planet Alliance gave us a platform through the ambassador program,” sophomore Muna Faruqi said.

A number of Stuyvesant students joined the BPGA after an after-school presentation by founder Hank Rogers in April. “I’ve always wanted to get more involved in the fight against climate change, and it was the perfect opportunity to get involved and meet new people. With [BPA], [I’m able] to reach a wider audience, something that would’ve been difficult for me to do individually,” sophomore Quihan Lin said.

For Faruqi, becoming an ambassador presented a platform for countering the consequences of climate change. “We want to shine a light on youth because we’re the ones who will be living in the future and if the people older than us [...] ruin the environment before we grow up, we’re kind of screwed,” Faruqi said. “We want to showcase the importance the youth’s opinions have.”

This summer, Lin attended the North American Youth Adaptation Forum in the United Nations (UN) Plaza alongside fellow ambassadors from Stuyvesant. “The North American Youth Adoption Forum was held in July, and it included many amazing organizations including Peace Boat US and Global Kids Activist Project,” sophomore Stacie Au said.

Sophomore Alyssa Kang had the opportunity to present at the forum. “I was one of two youth speakers and it was really daunting to speak in front of so many UN officials [because] they have so much experience.” Kang said. “I found it so inspiring because these people are not just working for their position because they’re president of [an organization], because they’re the CEO of [an organization]. They’re working together for a mission.”

Faruqi, Kang, and Lin also filmed videos for International Youth Day in collaboration with ambassadors from Guam, Palau, and Hawaii. “We really filmed those videos to show what youth are doing. I’m a typical high schooler in NYC, but I’m able, within my own life, to do the best I can to [make] more sustainable choices,” Kang said. “From the clothes you wear [to] the foods we eat [to] where our foods are sourced, everything is connected to climate change, and so, we’re just trying to show that little actions […] can come together to form a really big effect and help combat the climate crisis. We want to inspire other youth to do the same as we are.”

In September, Au, Faruqi, and Kang attended the Local Conference of Youth (LCOY) in Pennsylvania to participate in climate change discussions. “The LCOY is a COY (Conference of Youth) event where youth […] come together to discuss what they can do to fight climate change, especially in the US. At the LCOY, we [wrote] a statement [to] hopefully [be] present[ed] at other stages like the COP27 […] coming up pretty soon,” Kang said. “COP27 is a meeting at the UN where all global climate change leaders […] meet to talk about the current climate status. […] This year, they’re actually branching out to more youth. There’s been a lot of youth work being done in the UN this year, so I’m excited to see how that goes.”

From current events to prospective legislation, LCOY gave student ambassadors a space to discuss various facets of ongoing climate issues. “We discuss[ed], at first, the different problems that we’re already facing because of climate change because we didn’t tackle the issue earlier, [from] the flooding in Pakistan [to] the ongoing heat waves […] destroying crops,” Au said.

Au and Faruqi highlighted the informative nature of the discussions they participated in at the LCOY. “We talk[ed] about legislation in the U.S., like the Supreme Court […] EPA ruling. Due to the ruling, there are no more state caps on power plant emissions, so power plants can emit tons of greenhouse gases without consequence,” Au said. “We also [had] demonstrations on Ecobricks, [which] are really compact, small pieces of plastic that can be used to build houses.”

Legislative change was a key focus of the discussions that student ambassadors engaged in. “We’re gonna be talking about some solutions, what we can do, and what’s already being done,” Kang said. “Legislation I have in mind is the one similar to the one that was implemented in Hawaii. Hawaii committed to 100 percent renewable energy. I hope to bring that kind of legislation into New York.”

Despite the positive impact that individual actions can have on the fight against climate change, Lin believes political action is necessary for notable change. “There is not a lot we can do on an individual basis, but when we have more people standing together in the same movement, our voices are stronger and better heard,” Lin said. “I hope that the politicians will see our efforts and take action.”

The student ambassadors emphasize that while not everyone may have the opportunity to attend a UN conference, everyone can contribute to fighting climate change on an individual basis. “When it comes to talking about climate change, it’s more about climate transformation. We’re trying to get this whole system changed and climate change is something that will affect every aspect of everyone’s lives,” Kang said.

Au and Faruqi also highlight events accessible to youth who want to make a difference. “[There are often] climate strike[s] organized by Fridays for Future.” Faruqi said. “That’s something that anyone can go to, and their presence makes a huge difference.” Fridays for Future is an organization and international climate movement that uses school strikes to demand action to prevent climate change.

Moving forward, youth ambassadors at Stuyvesant wish to continue combating climate change, with BPA and beyond. “My future plans with BPA is to continue to spread the message and hopefully to start implement[ing] actual legislation within the New York area and maybe branching out regarding renewable energy. [...] I hope to keep on working with [BPA] on that and building legislation that the entire US can follow one day,” Kang said. “[Working against] climate change isn’t just for my college [applications] [...] I think it’s going to be a lifelong goal of mine.”