Over 100 students from Nebraska are gathering from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m on Friday, Oct. 4, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Innovation Campus for the third annual Nebraska Youth Climate Summit.
According to the president of Sustain UNL, junior fisheries and wildlife major Brittni McGuire, the summit aims to move away from talking about climate change and the environment as an issue and instead look at the ways that students can take action.
The event will feature a range of speakers, including Martha Shulski, the director of the Nebraska State Climate Office, who will talk about climate change in Nebraska, and Graham Christensen, the president of GC Resolve, a company that educates and mobilizes Nebraskans to participate in key issues, according to its website. Christensen will discuss regenerative agriculture and soil health, according to the event’s itinerary.
There will also be a panel discussion with elected state officials to discuss their perspectives on climate change, such as Sens. Patty Pansing Brooks and Megan Hunt and Omaha Public Power District board member Eric Williams.
“It's just all about youth empowerment,” McGuire said. “We're trying to empower youth to understand this issue and really go after it because it is our future, so it's our generation that has to tackle it.”
McGuire said this is the first year Sustain UNL has taken part in planning the event and the group has made an effort to spread the word around campus.
With more than 100 people registered, McGuire said the event reached an all-time high and had to cap their attendance. People must be registered for the event to attend.
“This conversation of climate change and climate solutions is, I think, really starting to make its way to Nebraska,” she said. “It's really easy for folks on the coast to be very concerned because they're getting hit with the impacts every day, whereas, here, a lot of people in Nebraska haven't really been hit in the face with that.”
Sustain UNL has also grown from around 25 students to approximately 60 in the past three years, according to McGuire. She attributes this overall concern for climate change and the environment to the publicity the issues have received from activists like 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg.
Jake Duffy, a member of Sustain UNL and a freshman environmental studies and political science double major, said young people have taken up this cause because younger generations will have to live with the consequences of climate change more than older generations. He also said it’s important to shift our behavior before it becomes a habit.
“I think that that is a commonality between every kind of major revolution — it’s always led by young people with a new idea,” he said. “We have the ability to change our human behavior, but if you are 60 years old, changing your behavior is undoing decades of training.”
Duffy said he hopes to leave the climate summit with more concrete knowledge and techniques to make an impact on climate change and other environmental issues.
“I think that's become a bigger thing — about teaching kids and youth how to get into caring about the climate,” he said. “I’m just interested in getting new techniques on how to do that.”