Students hopeful in climate change fight

LAKE PLACID – Students featured in a recently released documentary film hope it helps spread their message of optimism in fighting climate change.

“I hope it shows people not only the consequences of climate change – you don’t want to bring people down – but it gives them that spark of hope, too, that one person or a small group of people can make that change in their lives, or in their schools, that will affect plenty of more people, ” said Lake Placid High School junior Cody Bary.

Bary, LPHS senior Erin Weaver and Saranac Lake High School senior Gina Fiorile were three students with prominent roles in “The Resilient Ones: A Generation Takes on Climate Change,” which premiered Wednesday night at the High Peaks Resort during the Adirondack Research Consortium’s annual conference. It also aired on Mountain Lake PBS Thursday night and will be screened June 13 at The Wild Center nature museum in Tupper Lake.

Produced in partnership with Bright Blue EcoMedia and Mountain Lake PBS, the film follows local high school students on field trips throughout the Adirondack region last fall to places where people, organizations and businesses were either studying or adapting to climate change. The students were preparing for the fifth annual Youth Climate Conference held at The Wild Center last November, where students learn about climate change and draft action plans to address it.

The students went to places such as Fledging Crow Vegetables farm in Keeseville, Intervale Lowlands in Lake Placid and The Wild Center. They also went into the field with Paul Smith’s College Professor Curt Stager and Wildlife Conservation Society ecologist Jerry Jenkins, both experts in the climate change field.

At Intervale Lowlands, the students learned from owner Larry Master about his net-zero house. By building with energy efficiency in mind, Master has created a structure that produces more energy than it uses throughout the year. The energy is produced through solar panels.

“Really underlying all of this is ecological design,” said director Victor Guadagno of Bright Blue EcoMedia. “We can design systems that are smart. Like (Master) said, you can step into buildings and get 70 percent efficiency just by simple design. Agriculturally, we can design our landscape so that it holds water and gets perennial plants growing.”

Guadagno said the original intent of the film was to tell “how towns and cities and people are adapting to climate change in the North Country.” However, the direction of the film changed after his crew met the students on the first day of shooting for the film. It was September, and the students were planning for the Youth Climate Summit.

“That night we went back to where we were staying around (Lake Placid) actually, and we said, ‘Wow, what if we followed these kids while they plan and host the Youth Climate Summit?” Guadagno said. “So that’s what we did, and they became the vehicle to talk to experts about that topic.”

Shortly thereafter, Guadagno’s crew wound up jumping on the school buses with the students, following them as they interacted with climate change experts and interviewing the students individually.

Lake Placid High School environmental science teacher Tammy Morgan said the field trips were not just a vehicle for telling the story of climate change in the film, but they brought the students closer to communities around them.

“It really connected them to the broader community, not just the teaching world, not just the other kids that they work with at the youth summit,” Morgan said. “It allowed them to go out and work with people like Jerry Jenkins in the field outdoors. I think being outside and seeing people that work in nature and work on these problems gave them a better appreciation for what is being done around here.”

The field trips also built on lessons the students had learned at previous Youth Climate Summits, encouraging a sense of optimism instead of defeat when fighting this global issue.

“I think one of the students, (Fiorile), said it best,” Morgan said. “As we share this message and share our ideas about climate change, it needs to be one of hope and resilience, and that’s what comes across really nicely in this film is that it’s not about focusing on the problem. It’s about focusing on the solution.”

Weaver echoed those thoughts.

“I hope that people see (the film) and realize the passion that is in the Adirondack Park and in our youth regarding climate change and all the positive things we can do to combat it,” Weaver said. “I hope it will be inspiring.”

Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or mlynch@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.