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KPS Took Me to Florida. This is What I Learned

Last summer, I had the honor of being funded by Kent Place’s Maureen Ogden Environmental Education Scholarship to attend a pre-college program in Florida. Now that it is that time of year for other Kent Place students to apply to similar programs for this summer, I thought I would share five things with the community that I learned from the trip.

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1. The environmental crisis is like a three-legged stool. Since this summer program was centered around the humanities and ethics behind the climate crisis, I first learned about how this issue is interdisciplinary. If the climate crisis were a three-legged stool, one leg is the technological aspect of a solution, one is the monetary aspect, and the third is the cultural. Only when all three aspects work can a solution be successful. There are a lot of technological inventions that solve aspects of climate change already invented; only when we change the minds and attitudes of the people can we get them to use these inventions and make real change in a community.

2. Change can be made if you are smart about it. On our first day of the program, we visited a nearby public park. The designer of the park was quite smart about creating a public space that could be well used by nearby residents as protect the wild animals in the busy city of Tampa. Some cool highlights:

  • In the dog park, the designer coated the ground with a layer of shredded rubber tires. Grass usually turns into an eroding muddy mess over time, so the rubber will last longer, protect the soil, and rain water is able to soak through into the ground to feed the trees.

  • It rains a lot in Florida. Instead of keeping the park flat, the designer placed little dips in the ground and filled them with native plants. That way, if it rains a lot, the water can drain into the dips to create small ponds instead of flooding the park.

  • The designer was able to restore the area’s natural spring. Fresh water flows from a hole in the ground into a pond, which leaks into the saltwater bay. The brackish water that results attracts manatees, an endangered species native to Florida. It is also a great site for visitors who can watch the fish and birds from a small bridge above the pond.

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3. We are more connected to the Earth than we think. Who’d have thought that I would take a Tai Chi class at a program about climate change? But actually, there are more connections than you think! The instructor told us how the human body is connected to the cycle of seasons and time of day. Did you know that from midnight to 2:00am the kidney cleans your blood? Even if you stay up until 1:00am, your kidney will still want to clean your blood. It’s amazing how much our organs and emotions are connected to nature and time. For me, it reminds me of my commitment to saving nature because I am more connected to and dependent on it than I think.

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4. Your refrigerator plays a huge role in climate change! Scientists found that the number one way to reduce climate change is to properly dispose of fridges and AC units. Crazy, huh? The proper disposal of fridges is more important than switching to electric vehicles, using solar energy, or even having plant-rich diets. Why? Because fridges and AC units contain chemicals such as CFCs and HCFCs. When the units are broken down during disposal, the chemicals leak into the atmosphere and have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Countries are starting to notice this problem and are slowly beginning to find ways to reduce these emissions, but like all change, it is a slow process. So if you are planning on replacing your fridge or AC unit in the near future, make sure it is properly disposed of! For more info:

image credit: Benjamin Grant, Overview

5. Much is revealed about the world when it is seen from above. While I learned so much during my stay at Eckerd College, the plane trip home sealed the deal. After immersing myself in the fine details and even general themes of the climate crisis, when I flew out of the Tampa Airport, I could see with my own eyes how human development was taking over Florida’s natural habitats. But it wasn’t all bad. From the sky, the geometric layouts of the neighborhoods were almost beautiful. It was also scary seeing how close the houses were to the sea level, how vulnerable they are against the great sea. I ended up taking these images and thoughts back to the art room at school and using them as a main theme in my portfolio concentration.

If you are thinking of doing a program relating to the environment this summer, I highly recommend it! The total cost of my trip, including program fees and travel, cost only $800, and it was all paid for by the scholarship. I am so grateful that I was able to take this trip, and I hope to continue learning more about the climate crisis as I go off to college in the fall.

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