By Taylor Bistany, contributing writer

On December 15, 2021, Nantucket High School’s Youth Climate Committee, NYCC, held its first in-person Climate Café, where they had two guest speakers come to talk to both the club members and participating members of the community. In partnership with Envision Resilience, the NYCC’s event provided lunch foods and coffee to attendees. Hence the name, Climate Café. 

Sam Kefferstan, the NYCC’s supervisor and Mass Audubon’s Nantucket Sanctuaries’ Director, remarked that this club was “created through a partnership with Mass Audubon’s Statewide Youth Climate Leadership Program” or, the YCLP. Mass Audubon describes the YCLP as a “multi-level immersion in youth empowerment and leadership, culminating in actionable projects that combat climate change with a local focus.” The goal of this group is threefold: to promote “professional development, climate literacy, and climate action.”

The NYCC had its start in the spring of 2020. This means that this spring the NYCC will have its two-year “birthday”. The 25 members hope for many more in the future. The vision behind the foundation of this club was to raise awareness about climate change and the impacts it may have on our island community. This also raises teen voices, of whom are going to be the future generations to live out the consequences of climate change. 

Within the 25 members, there are 9 executive members. Sarah Swenson, junior, is the President. Ellie Kinsella, junior, has the role of Vice President. Kipper Buccino, junior, and Quinn Keating, junior, are the group’s secretaries. Dylan Marks, junior, helps to recruit more people. Anna Popnikolova, sophomore, works in external communications. Maudjeani Pelissier, senior, assists in internal communications. Taylor Bistany, freshman, is the events coordinator. 

Kefferstan, NYCC’s supervisor, stated that “Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England.” It was founded by two women who wanted to fight for the protection of birds in 1896. And, while it retains a focus on avian needs, it has broadened in scope since. The organization continues to carry on the legacy of those women by focusing on the largest issues the environment faces today. Some of these issues include; inequitable access to nature, climate change, and the loss of biodiversity.

Today, Massachusetts Audubon has 140,000 supporters and members. Together, they conserve and restore resilient land, offer nationally recognized education programs for both children and adults, protect wildlife, provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries, and advocate for impactful environmental policies. On the island, Mass Audubon manages almost 1,000 acres of open land and 15 miles of trails.

The Café’s main focus was to spread awareness about the Nantucket Coastal Resilience Plan (NCRP), which contains more than 200 slides. Both Dr. Karberg and Dr. Bois “simplified” these slides to make another presentation that they showed at the Climate Café.

Swenson explained that “creating the climate cafe was a lot of coordination with [Bois and Karberg]. It also involved writing up questions to ask them about the NCRP and doing research on that plan ourselves which included having one of the people who worked on the plan, Sean Murphy, come and talk to us about the details and the importance of taking these things at this time.” Wes Thornewill, Kipp Buccino, Archie Ferguson, and Maudjeani Pelissier were the four students chosen to ask Bois and Karberg the prepared questions about the NCRP.

The students in the NYCC expected around 30 people to show up, although keeping in mind the possibility that it may even be less because this was their first in-person Café. The turnout ended up being around 50 people, audience members sitting on the floor and standing in the back, leaning in to listen intently to the presentation.

Overall, the Café was a great success in many ways. Although, one thing managed to go slightly wrong. Time. The students’ prepared questions ended up running over their time limit, and some audience members left before hearing all the answers. Therefore, for the next Café, the NYCC plans to work more on their time management. 

Dr. Sarah Bois was one of the two speakers who talked at the Café. She is the Director of Education and Research at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation. The research of Dr. Bois is focused on multiple biodiversity and conservation topics. These topics include native pollinator diversity, non-native invasive species, resiliency, and rare species conservation, coastal vulnerability, and native species’ response to climate change. She also serves on the Town of Nantucket’s Coastal Resiliency Advisory Committee.

Dr. Jennifer Karberg was the other speaker at the Café. She is not only a research ecologist but also the Research Program Supervisor for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. As Dr. Jennifer Karberg stated, “NCF is the largest landowner on-island, protecting natural habitats from salt marshes to grasslands to forests”. She has held this position for the last 14 years, where she helps to manage/oversee the research program. NCF does this research to understand the limited natural ecology in those habitats.

Anna Popnikolova shared her thoughts “that everyone involved in the event—in the planning, in setting up, and everyone who attended the event, really did a great job. I think we had an amazing turnout, more people than we planned showed up to the event, and the number of students who actually stayed, listened, and showed interest, was amazing. I think the event was a great success, and I’m proud of everyone who was involved in it. I can’t wait for the next thing that we organize with the NYCC. It’s really a wonderful group to be a part of.”

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