Starting Small, Dreaming Big

One big question of the 4th grade’s Ethical Leadership Experience was asked long before the class of 2029 was born: Where’s the beef?

The follow-up question: Why does it matter?

“I know, it sounds random,” said one presenter. “But cows produce methane, and that’s a greenhouse gas.” The simple act of cutting down on the amount of beef we eat (the average American eats around 220 pounds of beef a year, or over half a pound of beef per day) means fewer cows, which means not only less methane, but less land and energy will be used in producing a very inefficient food source.

That was just one of the ideas presented during the Ethical Leadership Experience, which focused on students’ ideas for combating climate change, deforestation, and pollution, among other environmental concerns. Endowed by the Honorable Ann Winkelman Brown ’55 Ethical Leadership Program Fund, the annual projects—presented in person this year, with proud parents Zooming in—aim to turn 4th graders into leaders ready to inspire others to better the environment.

Now experts at electronic communications, the 4th graders created presentations and edited videos that examined and explained their environmental issue, then suggested solutions big and small. The group specializing in deforestation explained the worldwide consequences of losing wide swaths of rainforests and presented dioramas of what healthy forests should look like. They also included ways everyone can help, from cutting down on paper use to donating to organizations that fight deforestation.

The groups often presented small, sustainable choices people—including themselves—could make. The ocean rise group pledged to walk or bike to school instead of having their parents drive them. The ocean pollution group urged people to use reusable water bottles, utensils, and bags, instead of relying on plastic that may end up in the ocean. Some plans were more ambitious, such as building an underwater air conditioning system that would look like a coral reef, but would cool off the warming oceans. The implication was start small, but dream big.

Each presentation ended with a query: “What small things can we do in our everyday lives to help stop ocean pollution?” read one; “how can we educate people and inspire them to change?” read another.

“It’s a hard threat to fix,” said Tomás ’29 as he spoke on the peril facing polar bears. “But with everyone, we can. And you’re not going to be doing it alone; I’m going to be doing it with you.”

 

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