In June 2019, a fifteen year old student, Victory Luke, addressed the global IEA Conference on Energy Efficiency in the Mansion House, Dublin. This is what she had to say...
My name is Victory Luke and it is a pleasure and an honour to be speaking in front of you all here today. I am from Collinstown Park Community College, which is a secondary school located in Dublin.
Today I will be talking to you about a powerful partnership my school has become a part of, whose focus on energy efficiency and mitigating the impact of climate change has made a significant impact in my community. It is important for me to note that I am not a politician, nor am I an activist; but I am here on behalf of the young people of Ireland and the world, I am here in hopes of igniting change in you today because I am worried, and so is my generation, about the immediate future of our planet. As the oldest in my family I have three younger siblings who often talk to me about all the things they want to do when they grow up and all the things they want to be, do you know how I feel? I feel worried, scared- why? It's because I don't know for certain, by the way things are going, if they will see a world like the one they see right now to grow up in. This is our home and we need to fix it. We need to ensure there will be one left for these growing generations. However, that can't happen if the Climate Change Crisis is looming over us.
The school community as a platform for change
As I have learned over this past year the key to reversing the devastating aspects of climate change is action, particularly with regard to energy efficiency and their link with renewables. In my school community the platform for action around these issues was built by a partnership of Microsoft, SEAI, SSE Airtricity and my secondary school, Collinstown Park Community College. Practically the partnership took a number of different forms in order to improve our energy efficiency and impact on the environment. Firstly, SSE Airtricity installed solar panels and changed every light fixture throughout the school to LED bulbs while Microsoft matched the grant funding provided by SEAI, resulting in a major investment for the school. The impact of this link between energy efficiency and renewables has been significant as our electricity usage is down 90%. Concurrent to my schools work around energy efficiency we have also been working on water conservation through the installation of Hippo Bags, fixing leaking taps and educating our school community on water reduction methods, which have reduced our water consumption by 55%.
Another key pillar in the partnership to improve the energy efficiency of our school and community was a focus on education. During this past academic year our school organised and carried out a project called the Generation Green Five-Day Challenge. I was one of the Team Leaders, and it was our job to promote the challenge. We organised promotional posters and information sessions. The aim of the challenge was to share tips about ways we could all use our limited energy resources in a more sustainable way and to encourage students to try these tips in their daily lives and become more energy efficient. As team leaders we encouraged conversation, and debate about the issues of climate change, energy efficiency, sustainability and the environment. The students also had the opportunity to enter the Generation Green Art Competition, which allowed us to be creative in demonstrating the importance of the environment, and how energy efficiency can help provide the means to preserve and protect it.
The community ripple effect
Through participating in this event, little did we know how much of a ripple effect it would cause in our community. A third pillar of the partnership was that following on from our work in school we hosted an Energy Efficiency Evening in early February. The Energy Efficiency Evening was an opportunity for members of our wider community to learn about the work of our school in becoming more energy efficient and to learn about ways that the wider community could make a contribution to this as well. The evening also was an opportunity to show the art work that demonstrated the energy efficiency tips and information that we had shared amongst the peers in our school. In reflection it was encouraging and even inspiring that so many people from our community had turned out. At the beginning we thought we were just teaching the students, planting a small seed, but we were really building a web- one that connected the whole community and joined forces in the name of a greener and brighter future.
For years, scientist and researchers have warned us about these things. The technology is there. Why aren’t we using it? Why have we waited this long to fight this problem. Why are we only waking up now? We cannot continue down this road of ignorance, it is harming us- and it is harming your children; and the future of this planet. I'd like to leave on one question. Will you continue to watch and wait, or will you do something now?
Students are eager to make a difference, to make change
In reflection on this past year It has been beautiful to see just how engaged the youngest of our generation are with the issue of climate change and the benefits of energy efficiency. The various events and projects that we have held this year has injected a new enthusiasm into my fellow students around the quest of becoming more energy efficient. From these experiences my fellow students and I are eager to make a difference, to make change. This mindset would never have been created if not for the Generation Green Five Day Challenge and the broader support we received. From my own personal perspective, it is because of this- that I am speaking with you here today.
After these experiences this past year and from what I’ve seen, and after hearing the countless young voices who have spoken before me; the issue of climate change is so important. Everyone sitting here today knows that. If there's one thing I've learned from my experience, it is this: We have the ability to make the change that we want to see in the world.
Sometimes starting small makes a massive difference, and we need to start making these small changes in all of our families, communities, countries and the broader world. My generation needs you to start making them and to provide the type of leadership that Microsoft, SSE Airtricity and SEAI has provided for my school this year. For example, you can start by introducing sustainability classes in schools, start a Generation Green challenge of your own or introduce eco-friendly regulations.
Whatever it is, we need to do it fast and not put it off until tomorrow. This situation has been a long time coming. For years, scientist and researchers have warned us about these things. The technology is there. Why aren’t we using it? Why have we waited this long to fight this problem. Why are we only waking up now? We cannot continue down this road of ignorance, it is harming us- and it is harming your children; and the future of this planet. I'd like to leave on one question. Will you continue to watch and wait, or will you do something now?