Colonial Forge senior Arlie Munday gives a presentation on lobbying legislators during the Youth Climate Summit on Sunday at UMW.

Students aim to clear the air at Youth Climate Action Summit

by | Feb 25, 2024 | ALLFFP, Environmental

With a handful of PowerPoint slides and a carefully crafted email template, Arlie Munday demonstrated to a packed conference room inside UMW’s Cedric Rucker Student Center how just about anyone can become an environmental lobbyist. 

After targeting HB 3, a bill currently in Virginia’s House of Delegates that, if passed, would limit the state’s ability to enforce vehicle emissions standards, Munday compiled a list of contact information for Fredericksburg-area legislators before laying on the rhetorical charm in Gmail. 

“You want your whole message to be courteous,” he instructed the room. “No one wants to listen to someone who’s being rude. State representatives don’t take the job just to get yelled at, they want people to be logical.” 

Munday isn’t a professional climate activist, though. The Colonial Forge High School senior was one of 40-plus students presenting at the Youth Climate Action Summit on Sunday. The event, spearheaded by a coalition of organizations including the Virginia League of Conservation voters, centers students in diverse conversations about climate change. 

“They come at this and take autonomy of it,” said Jordan Suerattan, Virginia LCV’s Northern Virginia organizer. “It really comes from them. They put these presentations together, and we gave them no prompts.” 

When Nadia Shalaby was younger, she could glimpse the Pyramids from the bedroom window of her grandparents’ house in Cairo, where she visits twice a year.  

But with each passing trip to the Egyptian capital, the wondrous constructions became a more nebulous proposition. 

“Now everything’s foggy and dirty,” said Shalaby, a junior at Fredericksburg Academy. “The Nile River itself used to be so much cleaner and clearer, and now it’s lined with trash. Watching it deteriorate in real time also makes it more heartbreaking to watch.” 

Heartbreaking, but also motivating. Shalaby’s love for Egypt helped her develop an interest in educating others about the devastating effects of climate change in developing countries.  

Her presentation partner, fellow FA junior Robbie Howes, claims a similarly close connection to the project. Born in China, Howes noted that his native country—while technically industrialized—is the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions.  

“I just wanted to shine a light on what’s really going wrong,” he said.  

Other presentation topics included invasive species and greenwashing, a term used to describe deceptive marketing practices used to trick consumers into believing a product or process is environmentally friendly.

FA senior Molly Puckett explained how Gen Z phenomena such as “FOMO” and social media influencers contribute to the environmental harm caused by the so-called “fast fashion” industry. 

“People want to look like the influencer they follow, so they look for a cheaper alternative,” Puckett explained during her afternoon presentation in the Chandler Ballroom. 

After showing dire images of red dye-tinted bodies of water, the result of textile production dubbed “hydrocide,” Puckett offered solutions for companies and consumers alike. “Closed loop” production cycles recycle up to 99% of materials used when making clothes. For their part, consumers can make a trendy statement against fast fashion by thrifting at secondhand stores like Goodwill. 

“Just being content with the clothing you have,” Puckett said. “One piece of clothing at a time is what I’m advocating for with how to be a little bit more sustainable every day.”

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