Fighting the Good Fight for Climate Change
Writer / Ryan Gabbert
Photographer / Michael Durr
For many Hoosiers, climate change is just a buzzword they hear commentators on TV throw back and forth at one another. For the people at Earth Charter Indiana, it has a much more tangible meaning.
For them, climate change and its impending repercussions are at the forefront of their mind and something they work tirelessly to combat.
Earth Charter Indiana (ECI) was founded in 2001 by John Gibson and Jerry King. It was modeled after the Earth Charter declaration at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2000, and its mission is clear.
On the front page of its website, it says: “Our focus is on intergenerational action and education in the face of our climate crisis, what we can do to mitigate the crisis and how we can adapt with dignity and resilience.”
Education about this issue is a crucial first step but by itself is not enough. This crisis is not someone else’s problem, nor is it going to get solved on its own. Indiana consistently ranks in the top 10 carbon-emitting states, which contributes to the U.S. being one of the largest carbon emitters in the world.
ECI knows just how important decisive action is in the face of this problem and is a firm believer that solutions are possible but only through cooperation and localized initiatives.
Shannon Anderson has been with ECI since 2015 as their director of advocacy. With a background in biology and in politics, she has a clear perspective on the full scope of the problem.
“It is really easy to overlook Indiana’s importance and significance when you look at the whole world, but everybody needs to understand that you are not responsible for what a country on the other side of the world is doing necessarily, but you are responsible for where you live and your community. That is where you matter and that is where you have connections and that is where your skills translate the best. If you can do it here you can do it anywhere,” Shannon Anderson says.
Anderson and ECI believe that change begins locally and are striving to empower citizens to be the necessary change in their communities.
So far, seven Indiana cities have passed “climate recovery resolutions” which will help reduce carbon emissions, increase the use and efficiency of renewable energy and opens the door for future legislation to be passed. These resolutions have been spearheaded by local citizens affiliated with ECI who want to make a difference and more often than not the majority of those involved are high school and middle school students.
Working with and educating the youth of Indiana has become a specialty for ECI. It hosts a wide variety of summer camps and programs that place an emphasis on climate change education, sustainable living, creativity and even cooking. The goal of these programs is to give the next generation of Hoosiers the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference, while also having fun.
Jim Poyser, ECI’s Director of Advancement, has made a career out of educating young people and fighting for climate change solutions, so he knows better than anyone the impact that youth can have when they are determined and put their collective minds behind something.
“It’s very difficult to put aside or ignore the concerns of kids when they are talking about their future being imperiled by a deteriorating climate system. You kind of have to listen. And if the kids are not yelling and screaming about it but they are based in science and are being respectful it becomes doubly difficult to ignore them,” Poyser says.
An ECI camp alumni and a great example of this is Ella Comerford-Barnett. Ella is a junior at North Central High School and has been a climate change activist since the age of 11 when she helped start a zero-waste cafeteria project at her school. She hasn’t slowed down since and has recently helped ECI in its quest for climate-friendly legislation at the state house level.
All of the hard work of ECI and its affiliates culminated this February in what is known as SB-335. This was a proposed bill to create the first Indiana Climate Solutions Task Force whose mission was to look at areas to lower emissions and to make Indiana more resilient to climate change. Its creation and development were led by enthusiastic young Hoosiers like Ella who wanted to take action.
Unfortunately, the bill did not get the votes it needed to advance, but that has done nothing to diminish ECI’s commitment for change. It continues to advocate for effective solutions and encourage bipartisan cooperation at the state house so that Hoosiers can grow and prosper for generations to come.
Check out at earthcharterindiana.org and look them up on all social media platforms for more information on how to get involved.