From the Alliance for Climate Education blog:
On October 26th, the Alliance for Climate Education, with support from our partner Kaiser Permanente, hosted a Youth Action Lab focused on the intersections between climate, food, and health. ACE’s Action Labs are leadership and skills-building trainings that support high school students to design and execute locally relevant projects that have positive climate impacts in their community.

We sat down with two student leaders from Salinas, CA, Jocelyn Galarza and Ricardo Gomez, who attended the climate and health action lab. We wanted to get their perspective on what they learned, and what actionable solutions they will be taking back to their community. Here are their answers to our questions.

Why is climate change important to you? How do you see the impacts of climate change affecting your community?

Jocelyn: Initially, I got involved because I worried about the impact of climate change on animals. I didn’t realize how wide its reach was. Now I see how it affects my community, and have learned how fossil fuels are used to make pesticides and move food all around the world.

Ricardo: Climate change is important because it affects us all, and I see its effects in our community. Pesticides influence people’s health, the crops in the field, and the environment.

What sparked your interest in attending ACE’s Youth Action Lab (YAL) on climate and health?

Jocelyn: I wanted to learn more about how we can make a difference. I see a lot of people not eating healthy and abusing the planet, like littering, without realizing the impact on themselves, the climate, or both.The ACE presentation was very cool, and I learned a lot. It inspired me to want to make a difference in my community.

Ricardo: I have always been open to new ideas and change. Change is good and nothing can happen without it. I attended the action lab because I wanted to learn how to help those around me make a difference. I’ve always been passionate about helping others.

What role do you see your generation playing in the climate movement?

Jocelyn: I think this generation is really affecting the environment in a bad way, but, there are things we can do right now to help. It is critical that we come together to make change by setting goals, organizing, and helping others make the connection between climate change, health, and everyday life.

Ricardo: Half of my generation would support change. Some may be confused at first, but once they have been informed about the issue, they would be more open to do something about it. We need to bring this information outside of our schools to where other youth hang out, such as malls and skate parks. It’s also important to communicate not only through programs like the ACE Assembly, but by non-traditional means like video, music, and art.

What did you learn at the YAL about the connections between climate, food, and health?

Jocelyn: Through the action lab, I learned how food travels and that certain chemicals in food at the store can affect your health. Many kids are not eating healthy, so we need our schools and communities to provide healthier, more affordable, and local food to better both our climate and our health.

Ricardo: I learned that everything is connected. I’ve thought about it before, but ACE explained it better. I learned how chemicals affect our food and health, and that local food with less chemical use can be healthier and better for the environment.

Tell us about the climate solution you’re most excited about. What action plan did you create for yourself and what steps will you be taking to implement it?

Jocelyn: I’m excited to help others eat healthy. In my family, my mom would make a lot of unhealthy food for my brother and me. I told my mom what I learned from the training and she has made a commitment to make healthier food at home. Many people struggle with preventable diseases, and we need to start reading the labels on our food to monitor that. My mom wasn’t used to doing that before, but is now making a change to make our family healthier.

Ricardo: I am most excited about implementing a community-wide farm worker appreciation day. People don’t see the hard work that farm workers do. We could show people how much is put into getting food on our plates and the effects that has on the climate. We need to open people’s eyes to their contribution to the community and to the country.

What would you tell a young person interested in getting involved in the climate movement?

Jocelyn: I would tell young people to go for it. Our collective activism is really going to change the community and the climate in a positive way.

Ricardo: I would tell young people that they would be helping themselves and others in so many ways that they might not imagine. People would be healthier and happier, resulting in more positive families and communities. I would tell kids who say that they are not interested in climate change, that they can do little things here and there to make a difference now. Many students may be busy, but more open to action once they realize how easy it is to make a difference. It’s smart to make climate action a part of their time, because in the future their efforts will not only benefit the world, but themselves as well.