Four Rivers Climate Club organizes litter cleanup, panel on environmental activism

By Chris Larabee
May 9, 2024

This article was originally published in the Greenfield Recorder

Students from Four Rivers Charter Public School pick up trash along Eunice Williams Drive in Greenfield near the covered bridge on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

GREENFIELD — In an effort to raise further awareness of climate change and the power of collective action, the new Climate Club at Four Rivers Charter Public School held a day of action this week with a speaker panel and trash pickup around the city.

The nascent club, which formed in March, brought together panelists to speak to students about their environmental work, climate activism and how students can use their voice to make change. Following the panel, students were split up into groups assigned to different areas around Greenfield to pick up trash on local lands and waterways, as well as on campus.

On the panel were Development & Communications Director Kim Snyder and Environmental Educator Monya Relles with the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst; Connecticut River Conservancy River Steward Nina Gordon-Kirsch; Greenfield Community College permaculture students Mike Hannigan and Nicole Lamont; and Carol Browner, who served as the eighth administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under former President Bill Clinton and then as director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under former President Barack Obama.

Hendrick Carew, Corbyn Murry and other students from Four Rivers Charter Public School pick up trash along Eunice Williams Drive in Greenfield near the covered bridge on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Freshman Seneca Smith, who helped organize Wednesday’s event with juniors Loie Acton and Evie Bird, said she was hopeful the day of action would inspire Four Rivers students to get connected and involved in climate action together. Smith and Bird moderated the panel.

“It’s really important for people, specifically the youth, to know how to take action and educate themselves,” Smith said after the event. “Connecting through school is a really important way for people to feel they’re not alone in this conversation.”

Speaking to the students on how to get involved, Relles and others said student and youth voices have power, and collective action is a powerful tool, which can be used to raise awareness of issues in the community or to bring issues and concerns to local, state and federal officials.

“The biggest thing you can do right now is talk to others,” Relles said. “Start a club, start a walkout … get outside your individual circle.”

“Think about what you’re passionate about. … Engage on that issue because that will keep you going,” Browner said, encouraging conversation with others because “the more robust that discussion, the more robust the solution.”

And, Browner added, when students turn 18, they can take the most powerful action of all at the ballot box.

“What is the single most important thing an American can do for climate change? Vote,” Browner said, adding that it is vital to “be an informed and educated voter.”

Hendrick Carew, right, and other students from Four Rivers Charter Public School pick up trash along Eunice Williams Drive in Greenfield near the covered bridge on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Following the panel, student groups donned gloves and braved the wet weather to head out to the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area, Eunice Williams Drive and the bike trail to pick up trash and other waste. At the same time, the Climate Club also hosted a thrift clothing swap — with items donated by students — where kids could get new clothes in a free, sustainable way.

This article was originally published in the Greenfield Recorder.

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