Climate Action Day

Social justice and science go hand in hand at Exeter’s day of environmental learning and action.

Pedro Repsold de Sanson ’18
May 24, 2018
Dr. Cameron Wake

Dr. Cameron Wake from the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at UNH emphasizes that climate change is an innovation opportunity for the 21st century.

Each year on Climate Action Day, PEA faculty, staff and students gather to learn about our natural resources and reflect on environmentalism as an integral part of human existence. This year’s full day of programming included over 25 workshops, from hands-on projects such as dune grass planting to conversation with climate scientist Cameron Wake and environmental and social justice activist Vernice Miller-Travis.

The flashing yellow and white lights glaring from the projector screen in Assembly Hall get our attention at the beginning of a day aimed at building our community’s understanding of climate change.

Following the brightness overload, two members of the Democracy of Sound club perform on stage: Oren Stern ’18 plays drums and Anzi DeBenedetto ’18 plays the “coal instrument” while controversial environmental headlines pop up on the screen. My peers look around, trying to understand the meaning behind the purposely provocative performance. As the noise subsides, we sit in silence, acknowledging the call for environmental action.

Sustainable alternative to consumerism

Climate Action Day emphasizes the importance of stepping out of the classroom and accomplishing tangible goals that directly contribute to the fight against our climate reality.

My Climate Action Day centered on leading the daylong Exeter Exchange workshop alongside William Kalikman ’19 and Lily Friedland ’18. Exeter Exchange is PEA’s on-campus thrift shop which brings affordable clothing to all members of the Exeter community and promotes a sustainable alternative to consumerism. Clothes are donated by community members. We redistribute the clothing to our consumers who include people living within the greater Exeter community. All transactions are free of charge, and we also encourage donations that are redirected to a non-profit organization of our choice.

I joined Exeter Exchange in my lower year because I felt the project unites sustainability and social inclusion—a mission that resonated with the Climate Action Day keynote speaker, Vernice Miller-Travis, whose riveting talk highlighted the inherent confluence between environmental and social justice.

Throughout the day, as I worked at Exeter Exchange, her powerful message kept coming back to me.

We started the day with a clothing drive before the keynote assembly. Students and faculty were eager to help; their generosity led to boxes full of everything from colorful kids pajamas to navy blue formal attire. There is no better feeling than to watch students arrive with large plastic bags filled with items that they want to donate.

At the workshop we introduced participants to the history of the Exeter Exchange, which had just relocated to a new space behind the Exeter bookstore. As a group, we sorted and organized items collected during our drives. We decorated the walls, giving the shop a creative and welcoming atmosphere. We painted a wave, the countryside, the globe, dunes—all images that emphasize the natural beauty that surrounds us. Uplifting pop music set the tone and we didn’t even notice it was time for lunch.

Exchange gathers used clothing at Exeter.

Each day is Climate Action Day

I was amazed by the smiles, the enthusiasm and everyone’s willingness to help. With hands covered in blue and green paint, we discussed the potential for the Exeter Exchange to create real change in the community. Students eagerly shared their own perspectives. After the workshop, I feel confident that the Exeter Exchange will continue to grow and help create a community willing to consume less, reuse and exchange.

Climate Action Day reinforces our collective capability to change our predicted future and simultaneously reminds me that significant impact will only come if each day becomes a microcosm of PEA’s Climate Action Day.

As a senior, I will make sure to carry the environmental lessons I learned in this caring community to my next destination.

Pedro Repsold de Sanson is a senior from Rio de Janeiro. He is one of 20 students who collaborated on planning for Climate Action Day.