Carmel, Indy youth meet Indy's Office of Sustainability

I’m Delia Novak, an incoming junior at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, Indiana. I have a vested passion in the Earth and its well-being and I began interning with Jim Poyser and Youth Power Indiana in June, after reading the Earth Charter and reflecting upon its expression of the scientific, social, and economic urgency of environmental preservation.

Throughout June and the beginning of July, my fellow interns and I dutifully followed Mr. Poyser on excursions to a variety of summer camps and programs around Indianapolis. We met with hundreds of Indy kids and presented them with information and activities regarding youth involvement in efforts to halt climate change and reduce communities’ water and carbon footprints.

On Friday, July 8, we broke from what had become our typical routine to attack global warming from a more legislative angle. We met with the Department of Public Works’ Melody Park, Chief Engineer and Director of Sustainability, and Matt Mosier, of Air Pollution Control, to implement the iMatter Youth Climate Report Card.

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In 2013, the research of former NASA scientist Dr. Jim Hansen was used to create a report card that evaluates individual cities’ abilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce cleaner, more sustainable communities. Cities’ scores on five different sections are collectively assessed to culminate in a letter grade, which then indicates the extent of necessary action a community must take in order to reduce its emissions to the levels deemed appropriate by eminent scientists across the country.

The evaluation of this report card was complicated slightly by the DPW’s usage of the STAR scale in measuring the sustainability of Indianapolis. Despite the differences in metrics between the STAR and iMatter version, it was clear from the start that Indianapolis is not as sustainable as it could be.

The DPW is actively working on an inventory of greenhouse gases, and an 80% reduction of emissions is encouraged by STAR by 2050, but the department focuses more on meeting all the STAR goals than reaching a 0 emissions level. In addition to this seeming lack of a Climate Action Plan, Indianapolis is almost entirely dependent upon nonrenewable energy and does not have adequately aggressive carbon removal programs.

As a result, Indianapolis’ score on the iMatter report card will be extremely low. Its sustainability level is not particularly close to where it could be - to where it has to be - in order to halt the effects of climate change upon the city. Be that as it may, Ms. Park and Mr. Mosier are trying to implement policies to maximize green space, water retention, and walkability wherever possible. The meeting concluded with a commitment to work together on a regular basis.

Indianapolis faces a long road ahead, but with the right combination of green policy, environmental action, and motivated kids, progress is inevitable.

Andy Fry