Students challenged to make a difference at Climate Leadership Summit hosted by CSU and PSD

High school students from Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Denver and elsewhere were challenged to be the change needed during the 2022 Climate Leadership Summit at Colorado State University.

Sponsored by CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and the Poudre School District, close to 200 students listened to speakers and participated in three sets of breakout sessions throughout the day Friday, April 15, at the Lory Student Center.

A group of 23 high school students and the SoGES student sustainability center organized the event for their high school peers. 

During the afternoon session, CSU President Joyce McConnell told students she attended the first Earth Day in New York City on April 22, 1970, and that she was mad that leaders hadn’t done more by then. She added that she hoped more would have been done about climate leadership in the 52 years since.

But McConnell told students: “You are the change-makers. You can make this happen. You are powerful. You can go out in the world and you can make a difference. The world is really, literally, waiting for you.”

Wall, Denning set the scene

SoGES Director Diana Wall welcomed the students in the morning before the first keynote speaker, CSU Atmospheric Science Professor Scott Denning, who set the stage with a big picture overview.

Denning said that climate change is simple, serious and solvable: He explained the science of climate change, its seriousness and associated challenges and how we can rise to the challenge.

The morning breakout sessions included discussions on public health, wildlife, just transitions, agriculture, the Glasgow Climate Pact, air quality, economics and climate justice. 

After lunch, other breakouts addressed climate intervention, Colorado’s climate future, a student leaders’ idea exchange and sustainable fashion.

Being aware, and creative

Design and Merchandising Assistant Professor Sonali Diddi shared some unpleasant facts about the fashion industry with a large group of students. She said fashion is a $2 trillion industry that employs more than 60 million, but about half are children in Bangladesh.

Diddi said fashion is the second-worst industry for pollution and that 11 million tons of clothing ended up in U.S. landfills (in 2018, according to published reports). She also said about 180,000 pounds of denim end up in Colorado landfills each year.

“The aim of today’s presentation is not to make you feel bad, but to make you feel aware of the industry, ” Diddi said. “And what our choices can contribute to the world.”

At the conclusion of the event, Denning reminded students that “hope is a verb.” He said the future is bright, and “we create our well-being through creativity, ingenuity and hard work.”