This was Punahou's second-ever Virtual Sustainability Fair. “While the pandemic is terrible in so many ways, it has allowed us to make this event virtual and connect with one another around these important topics,” said Robyn Vierra, EdD, Director of Global Education at Punahou School. “We have representation from students all over the USA, as well as from Vietnam, Guatemala, Jordan, Pakistan, and India.” The entire Sustainability Fair can be viewed on Punahou School’s YouTube Channel
Middle School Science Teacher Christine Spikes
used the sustainability fair as an extra credit option for her students. “Mr. [Stephen] Blan
[Assistant Head of Middle School] shared this opportunity with the science teachers, and I encouraged our students to participate,” she noted. The “assignment” was to show how students are taking action for a more sustainable world and to create a 3-5 minute video showcasing any issue related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
Pierce chose to discuss microloans, which offer opportunities for individual people, such as small investors, to provide funding and some benefits to those who don’t have access to banks. This concept helps to end poverty, prevent hunger, and reduce inequality.
“My dad and I looked closely at all the United Nations Sustainable Goals. I thought about a lot of different possibilities, and then he told me about microloans, and I thought it was very cool,” Pierce said. “In my research, I learned that if you could make such a small contribution to someone, it could turn out to be a big help for them. I learned a lot about microloans and all about how they work. I also learned that people all over the world are kind and want to work hard.”
Once he picked his topic, Pierce did some research on the Kiva website
and read news stories about microloans and how they help people all over the world. “I felt good about actually making a microloan and making a challenge to other kids,” Pierce said. “There are so many people in need, and we can help them by making small sacrifices. A small seed can grow into a huge tree.”
A self-proclaimed animal lover, Pierce is committed to keeping the environment safe and clean for all creatures. “If we do that, it will turn out better for us as human beings, too,” he said. “Future generations are depending on us.”
In Brown’s video, she talks about the four major causes of climate change: deforestation, population growth (increased agriculture), fossil fuels, and greenhouse gases. She doesn’t feel like she chose her topic; rather, the topic chose her. “I had been desperate for ways to speak out and inform those around me of the dire situation that is the climate crisis, but as I tried to speak out, no one was listening,” she said. “I had the resources, the information, the inspiration, the pure determination and commitment to my beliefs ready, but I lacked the right platform to stand upon.
“When Mrs. [Sherri] Reed [Upper School Science Teacher] told our class about the Sustainability Fair, I just about fell out of my chair with excitement,” she continued. “At that moment, I knew my chance to speak out on my beliefs and inform others of the ways we as human have caused climate change, the way climate change affects both the earth itself as well as the biodiversity that lives upon it, and lastly, the ways in which humans can help to save the earth and finally return the kindness the earth has given us since the beginning.”
Reed did not make the Sustainability Fair an assignment or extra credit, but offered it to students as an opportunity to speak out and be a part of something global. “I emailed Robyn Vierra [Punahou teacher], and it turns out that she was in high school when I worked at LaPietra in Honolulu. She had sports every day at our school, even though she did not attend our school. I guess we had the best gym. So, it’s possible that I passed her walking around campus … small island, you know. My love for the islands is forever ongoing, and I value each and every connection I have there.”
Brown felt she was already fairly informed about the topic of climate change's causes, effects, and possible solutions, but she used the Sustainability Fair as a chance to further her knowledge of each of these topics. “I read many informative articles from countless climate change organizations as well as sought out deeper and, in many cases, a more scientific approach to the matter,” she said. Overall, my beliefs have grown, and my determination to speak out on my beliefs has only become stronger.”
Brown’s short film is packed with detailed information regarding climate change into the short time allotment. “When I asked her about her timing and the speed of her voice, she said that she slowed down at the end because THAT was the most important part of her film,” Reed said.
She approached her project systematically: “I made a research outline that organized the specific topics I wanted to cover in my video,” Brown said. “I filled this outline out with both factual information as well as my personal thoughts as I read countless articles, activist speeches, news articles, data charts, environmental scientist's essays, and I also watched many videos.”
With a passion for the environment since she was 12, after a short discussion in science class, Brown began to ponder many questions, and she started to notice things such as pollution in her neighborhood parks or the hazy colors of oil in the local waterways. Her inspiration is Greta Thunberg.
“As humans, we have knowingly treated the earth with relentless selfishness and dreadful insensitivity, yet people still don't believe our negligence is unjust. The world's carelessness haunts me with a looming frustration, which I believe can be justified as a natural response to the situation at hand,” Brown said. “That being said, even though frustration and anger may be a natural response to the climate crisis, it is not where my passion is derived. My passion is inexplicably real but extremely hard to explain. I have sat and pondered where my passion comes from for a long time, and the only answer I have to offer is one word and four letters. Love.
“On a more important and serious note,” Brown continued. “ One voice can make all the difference. That is why I speak out on what I believe in, and you should too.”