Next school year, Deerfield plans to complete its official Climate Action Plan and pitch it to the Academy’s Sustainability Board. Ten years ago, Deerfield realized the negative effects of some of its practices and the importance of making meaningful changes in order to protect the environment. It was at this point that the Academy chose to create a sustainability plan that consisted of 45 “action-items,” created with the intent of improving Deerfield’s performance in environmental efforts. Deerfield also incorporated the term “environmental stewardship” into its mission statement. Today, the Climate Action Plan differs from the sustainability plan in that it sets out exact percentage reductions that the school should aim for in order to reach an ambitious but possible goal.
Putting a real Climate Action Plan into effect is time consuming and challenging. Mr. David Purington, the Environmental Management Coordinator and member of the Sustainability Board stated, “It is important for next year that everybody understand we are not there yet. It’s almost like a race: we are training for the race, but we haven’t run it yet.”
According to Dr. Ivory Hills, the current Director of Sustainability, who spearheaded the movement along with Mr. Purington and the rest of the board, the plan itself is “a process where we collect relevant information and community sentiment to construct a document that works for our school. We are still in the early stages.”
Anticipated challenges arise from the fact that many activities that occur at Deerfield release large quantities of greenhouse gas. Jackson Cohlan ’18 plans to head the student committee next year that will aid the board with the CAP. Cohlan spoke of some of the challenges that Deerfield faces in creating the plan, explaining, “We have to make the carbon emissions as low as we can without impeding the things the school wants to do. For example, research conducted by a firm hired to survey and evaluate the Academy’s emission levels showed that [our trips abroad] with the CSGC and Dr. Curtis going on fundraising trips burn a lot of carbon emissions.” However, with a hopeful outlook, Cohlan believes that the Academy does not have to sacrifice these important activities that also emit greenhouse gases. Rather, we can find a balance.
Dr. Hills indicated that the CAP would be a collective and impactful initiative, stating, “When the CAP is completed, it will be relevant to the whole community. Thus, I anticipate every student and adult helping to implement the plan.”
Cohlan believes that many people take the importance of climate change for granted. While the climate change conversation is relevant to everyone, its importance is especially clear to Cohlan. When asked about his motivation to join the climate change movement, Cohlan said, “I live in southern Florida, and my house is officially below sea level. I have watched a bunch of documentaries about it and done a bunch of research, and if sea levels rise above two feet, my house will be underwater because it will get flooded, and it’s predicted to do that within the next one hundred and fifty years. It’s a thing that a lot of people don’t pay attention to, but I think it’s really important.”
Through the creation of a personalized and thorough Climate Action Plan, students, faculty, and all members of the Deerfield community will take an active role in alleviating the amount of carbon emissions the Academy produces, making positive changes that extend to affect the global community at large.