As international teen climate sensation, Greta Thunberg, settles here in the U.S. this month for Climate Week NYC and the U.N. General Assembly, her high school peers in Pittsburgh are preparing for their own U.N.-style sustainability summit.
On Tuesday, September 17, roughly 130 teenagers from more than 10 schools across the Pittsburgh region will gather for Youthquake 2030: Gen Z and the UN SDGs, part of Covestro’s 2019 series of THINC30 Tanks.
Like all of our THINC30 events, the purpose, first and foremost, is to introduce the students to the key concepts of sustainability — environmental, economic and social — and show how they are given life through the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
Then, through a series of spotlight speakers, fireside chats and panels, the students will learn about the integral role they play in continuing this important, purpose-driven work. We’ll be introducing them to local dreamers, inventors and advocates who are changing the world for the better — people who are passionate about sustainability and have turned that passion into careers.
Like Hana Uman of 412 Food Rescue, which uses an uber-style app and volunteers to rescue surplus food from restaurants, companies, stores and individuals and then deliver it to people who need it. While 412’s work most obviously supports Goal #2, Zero Hunger, it also ties directly to Goal #13, Climate Action. Because getting excess food to hungry people reduces food waste, which in turn reduces methane gas, which then reduces carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
They’ll also meet William Parker, founder of VendSpin, another social entrepreneur who is connecting people living in food deserts to grocery stores using an app technology. It’s another venture designed to alleviate hunger, while also reducing inequality or Goal #10. And, Austin Webb, whose company, Fifth Season (powered by RoBotany) has built smart, indoor farms that use robots and software analytics to grow and provide healthy, fresh produce to people regardless of the season. That certainly supports Goal #3, Good Health and Nutrition, and also #8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.
And, we intend to go deeper still. Project Everyone and UNICEF have produced what they call the “World’s Largest Lesson.” Its goal is to mobilize children and young people around the world into action that supports the Global Goals. Working with the Consortium for Public Education, which acts as a bridge between Pittsburgh’s education and business communities, we’ve tailored the curriculum to meet our local needs.
The result? Organizing in individual teams, the students will begin by identifying local sustainability issues that align with the SDGs. They’ll then brainstorm several solutions, select one to explore more deeply and present the fleshed-out version to those in attendance.
There’s more. They’ll end the day having not only learned about the SDGs, they’ll actually make commitments to them. They’ll pledge to personally address one or more the SDGs, and, when they return to their respective schools, student teams will continue working to solve their challenges through Consortium’s Student Powered Solutions program.
Applying youthful thinking and energy to our sustainability issues is what it’s all about. And showing students that not only can they make an impact, but as citizens, it’s their responsibility.
Their subsequent projects will take them between six and eight weeks to complete. Later this fall, they’ll present their solutions to us. We can’t wait.
Stay tuned — I’ll be reporting back.