Student Voice: Lessons to Take on Climate Justice from the Coronavirus

By Elie Berman (Newton South), March 2020 – 

Coronavirus is creating fear from Newton, Massachusetts throughout the entire world. International communities are coming together to fight a pandemic. Coronavirus is affecting every country across the globe, and it draws an eerie parallel to climate change. So what could happen if the world banded together in the same way to fight it?

The ‘tragedy of the commons’ is any situation where individuals selfishly take more than they need from a shared resource, depleting it, and hurting everyone. Walking into a Whole Foods on March 15, canned foods are gone and Clorox wipes fill the garbage can. Customers take more than they came for, fearing there may soon be nothing left. As they overstock their own cabinets, they steal from those who come in to buy their regular share but find every shelf empty. This is one example of the tragedy of the commons. Climate change is another.

Climate change disproportionately affects lower economic communities. While developed countries continue to pollute the air, fill landfills, and emit millions of pounds of CO2 every second, they are also the places less affected. Simultaneously, villages in developing countries are in drought or floods and don’t have the money or power to respond. Some people are displaced and others die.

Recently, the extent of our globalization has become exposed. Disease spreads rapidly, and loved ones phone from thousands of miles away. In reaction to coronavirus, countries mandate the closing of schools and businesses in order to respond to current needs and flatten the curve. Similarly, we need to care about the lower economic communities that are currently seeing the effects of climate change. We must also shift our daily lives, understanding that if we continue the way we are, those effects will soon be hitting everyone. Wherever you are: take fewer flights. Reuse what you already own. Take precautionary measures. You can fight two crises at once.

Newton students are invited to submit essays on the environment in honor of Green Newton’s 30th Anniversary. Like Elie’s essay, selected works will be published on the Green Newton and GN School Connections websites and in the Green Newton e-news. Click HERE for more information on how to submit and essay.

Newton students are invited to submit an essay on “Students Take Climate Action”

In honor of Green Newton’s 30th Anniversary, we invite all high school students who live in Newton to write essays to voice their concerns and inspire others to make a difference by suggesting solutions that can benefit our environment.

The essay topic may be chosen from the list below or it can be an environmental topic of your choice. Students can write how they and others they know are learning to cope with the current challenges we face, while taking positive steps at home and in our community to conserve energy and protect our natural resources.  

Selected essays (300 words max) will be published on the Green Newton website, in our e-news bulletins, and on the GN School Connections website. Green Newton reviewers will determine on a weekly basis how many essays will be selected for publication.

There will be a raffle drawing on a date yet to be determined, in which all students who submit essays will be eligible to receive one of two $50 gift certificate prizes to use at a local shop or restaurant of their choice.

How to submit the essay? Send it by email by April 27 to [email protected]. Please include a title, your full name, school and grade. 

For more information, please email us at [email protected] 

(Information updated on March 20, 2020)


  • How can an education in climate science impact your future career possibilities?
  • Write about the benefits of one of the goals in Newton’s Climate Action Plan.
  • Create testimony is support of a climate-related bill that is being considered in the Massachusetts Legislature. (Resources for legislative priority lists: Mass Power Forward, Mothers Out Front, 350, Our Climate, Sunrise, Conservation Law Foundation, Clean Water Action, MassPIRG, MCAN)
  • Describe how the Sunrise Movement or Greta Thunberg has inspired you to get involved in Climate Action.
  • Write a review of a movie/book by Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Al Gore or Rachel Carson and describe how it inspires you.
  • What are the most important steps for Newton residents to become more sustainable in their commutes to school, work and other locations?
  • What are the benefits of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and is Massachusetts making progress in this transition?
  • How does climate change impact lower economic communities?
  • What are green building principles and how can they benefit proposed building projects in Newton?
  • What is pump technology and how is it being used in Newton’s homes?

Climate Education Survey for Teachers

Green Newton School Connections is advocating for more Climate Education in Newton schools.

We invite all NPS teachers, from grades K-12, from every subject area, to answer this 5-minute survey. We hope to better understand what is already being taught in the district and what can be done to strengthen climate literacy and justice for our students. 

Please spread the word, ask colleagues and teachers to respond.

Thank you!

Climate Education Survey Link:

More at: Climate Education Advocacy

NPR/Ipsos poll, April 2019: Teachers on Climate Change

Image from:  The Daily of the University of Washington – May 28, 2019

Young People: Can you Support the Juliana Plaintiffs?

Last month Green Newton has declared support for Juliana v. United States.  If you would also like to support those extraordinary young people, please read their message below and act today 🙂  

“Are you a young person who wants to show your support for the 21 youth plaintiffs of Juliana v. United States? Or do you have a young person in your life who wants to support the plaintiffs in this groundbreaking youth-led climate change case?
We need your help TODAY!
Zero Hour, together with the National Children’s Campaign, is leading a nationwide drive to support the 21 Juliana youth plaintiffs, asking youth to add their names in support of a new brief on behalf of young people and women. This amicus, or “friend of the court” brief will be filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this Thursday, March 12, 2020 on behalf of the League of Women Voters, Zero Hour, and the National Children’s Campaign. The brief will call upon the Court to grant a rehearing of the Juliana plaintiffs’ case and allow their voices to be heard in open court at trial.
Please visit TODAY to add your name to the growing list of young people supporting this youth and women led brief (or, if you’re an adult, please share this link with the young people in your life). YOU can tell our Nation’s courts that they have a duty to protect our constitutional right to a stable climate!

Message from Levi, one of the 21 Juliana v. US plaintiffs:


Composting at Mason-Rice

Original post from the Mayor’s Update – 
By Mayor Ruthanne Fuller,  Feb 28, 2020
Mason-Rice Elementary School this week launched a food waste composting program in its cafeteria. Mason-Rice is the third school with composting, joining Angier and Zervas where similar programs started last year.
Special thanks to Mason-Rice Principal Jake Bultema and several parents, including Heather Friedman and Wendy Sheu, and our Newton Department of Public Works for bringing composting to another school.
The food waste will be picked up at Mason-Rice twice weekly by Black Earth Compost. School recycling and food waste diversion programs are being coordinated by Newton DPW on a voluntary basis. Interested in knowing more? Contact Erica with Newton DPW at [email protected]
Leftover food and food waste thrown in the garbage make up 26 percent of the weight of trash collected in Massachusetts. That not only fills landfills, it costs us a lot of money in waste disposal fees. Instead of throwing food waste in the trash, composting turns leftover food back into soil to grow more food.
Interested in composting at your own home? You can purchase a bin for your backyard through the City for $25 here.
You can also sign up with Black Earth Composting for curbside food waste collection. Black Earth Compost, the City-vetted company residents can sign with for curbside collection, costs Newtonians $59.99 for six months, plus a one-time start-up fee of $34 to pay for a 13-gallon lockable bin. Black Earth Compost will collect your food waste once a week at the curb on the same collection day as your trash/recycling. Get more information about composting and Black Earth Compost at​
Stay tuned for more news on bringing your food waste for composting at the City of Newton Resource Recovery Center on Rumford Avenue. We expect this program to be up and running in the next few months.

Climate Change Scorecard Activity

Original post from The Green Team, March 2020 Newsletter – 

The 50th Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and this year’s theme is “Climate Action”. THE GREEN TEAM’s Climate Change Scorecard Activity and Scorecard is a great way to engage students in understanding more about how their actions can help slow climate change. Students can use the cards to keep track of their environmental actions over a week’s time and accumulate points for reducing their energy consumption and counteracting pollution. Taking the bus to school, eating less meat, and making a compost pile are all ways to earn points!

Idle Free Newton

The Idle Free Newton website is live and offers lots of resources about why we need to turn of our engines to protect our children and clean our air. The initiative aims to reduce air pollution from vehicle exhaust in our city and especially around schools. Please visit to:

Thank you for not idling

Brought to you by: Newton Police Department, Newton Health and Human Services, Newton Public Schools, Newton School Committee, Newton Office of Sustainability, Newton Safe Routes to School, and Green Newton School Connections.


Spring in My Backyard (with Chickens!)

Children ages 5 & up are invited to celebrate spring by planting seedlings, making a pinecone bird feeder, learning about earthworm composting and meeting animal friends! With Students for a Greener World and their traditional chicken race. 

Tuesday, March 10, 3:00-4:00 pm @ Newton Free Library

The 2019 Chicken Race:

Co-sponsored by Newton Free Library, Green Newton and Newton Community Farm. 

Climate Action: Earth Day 2020 Pledge

Original post from Earth Day 2020 Boston – 

Individual Action

Take the Earth Day 2020 Pledge. The United Nations says we need to reduce emissions by 7% a year over the next 10 years to avert severe climate consequences.

Steps to taking the Earth Day 2020 Pledge:

  1. Calculate your carbon footprint.
  2. Reduce your impact.
  3. Offset the rest. Here are two options: Terrapass or Gold Standard.
  4. Tell us what you did through the “contact us” button on this page.
  5. Hug your children, nieces and nephews.

Political Action

Contact your legislators about climate action. To find your representatives, click this link.

Take the pledge to be an environmental voter in 2020. Vote on March 3rd in the Massachusetts Presidential Primary. Then vote in the general election – Tuesday, November 3rd. Send a strong message that action on climate must happen this year. 2020 is the year to declare a climate emergency.

Educators Take Action

Join a climate action team with other educators and tell us what kind of action you want to take. Are you interested in teaching about climate change, partnerships with other organizations or discussing ways to include climate concerns in your labor negotiations? We have a place for you! Follow this link to join us.

Additional ways to act

Get involved in the national movement: 

What we have been reading, watching and listening to…

VIDEOMason- Rice Green Team Kids –  The Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

PODCASTKQED ForumHow Kids Can Stop Fearing the Future and Tackle Climate Change

ARTICLE Earth Day OrgTwo New York Times Ads, Separated by Half a Century, Call Millions to Action

PETITIONChange.orgEducational Leaders Please Pass Climate Action Resolutions to Protect Students

ACTIVISMZinn Education ProjectOrganizing Lessons from the Portland Climate Justice Resolution