The PASC and Their Stories

In honor of Earth Week celebrations, members of the Phillips Academy Sustainability Coalition discuss their personal experience with the climate crisis and their own climate efforts. From hurricanes to wildfires, these youth activists are working towards a sustainable future, both off campus (clubs such as Andover Climate Lobby) and within (for example, Divest Andover). Which begs the question-why?

Nico von-Eckartsberg ’23, Divest Andover: 

One or two summers ago I was driving to work on that day where the sky was a deep orange. It was in the middle of one of the worst fire seasons California has seen and it looked like it was 5am for the entire day. Normally we would keep the lights off because there was enough natural light but even with the lights on it felt dystopian. I had always cared about climate change before this, but that day really served as an example of how real it is and how pressing of an issue it is. 

As I read more news articles and talked to people about California’s fires, I realized just how big of a problem climate change is. It’s so much bigger than not littering and recycling, even though these actions are important. Climate change is driven by institutions in power. In the world of education, Andover serves this role—we are a trendsetter for other schools. That’s ultimately why I joined Divest Andover. I wanted to help drive Andover to send an institutional message about climate change.

Carlos Cepeda-Diaz ’23, Student Advocates for Climate Awareness:

Rising temperatures have been noticeably changing the world around me my entire life. As a resident of South Florida, I feel the impact of climate change through hurricanes and heat waves. The trees I climbed as a child have fallen through my neighbors’ roofs and every year the roads around my home creep closer towards the sky to escape a rising sea. What makes climate change so dangerous is that it does not respect borders, class, or individual walks of life–but this also makes it easier to unite against it. No matter who you are or where you come from, climate change will affect you. My efforts with the PASC focus on connecting how climate change will impact all of the disciplines that Andover students devote themselves to because it is critical that everyone is aware of the role they must play in creating a livable future for all.

Alice Fan ’23, PASC Student Co-Coordinator:

Climate change is the most pressing issue our generation faces. To me, the real question is “why shouldn’t I care?” because I feel it’s nearly impossible to not care about a global, uniquely human problem that affects every facet of our lives, especially as we grow older. What strikes me the most about climate change is that it is so all-encompassing and intersects with other social justice issues; most of my peers don’t understand that climate justice is racial justice. Climate justice is gender equity. Addressing climate justice simultaneously addresses socioeconomic disparities. It is all interconnected, and everyone has a role to play in equitable and effective climate solutions, whether it be on Andover’s campus or beyond.

Sonia Appen ’24, Gardening: 

I care about climate change because I live in a place where the climate is changing—the Earth. As a procrastinator, I understand why some people might not feel inclined to worry about or address climate change just yet, when we have like 10 years before climate change is irreversible, according to the United Nations. I’ve put off assignments due the next day, so 10 years can feel like a long time. Andover Gardening, my initiative, might not seem like the sustainability activism you’re used to seeing, but what we eat matters, especially since we don’t get a lot of control over it as boarding school students. Establishing a connection to nature and understanding the roots of what we eat (literally and figuratively) can help us envision a future of a better food system.

Eddie Lou ’24, EcoAction: 

As a co-head of EcoAction, I believe education, and the corresponding awareness and understanding, is the first step towards meaningful change. If everyone understood the importance of climate action, we would really be able to move towards a solution, and that’s crucial. Climate damage will only worsen in our lifetime, and particularly affect our generation. I live in New Jersey, where I haven’t been displaced or severely impacted by climate change—but I know that if we don’t work against global warming, that future is coming. 

If anyone is interested, you should become EcoLeaders and work with us to teach both dorms and day student groups. It’s a program that matters. One of the lessons we designed was about climate denialism, how some people refuse to admit that global warming is real. It’s a less explored problem but crucial to how education can move us to see this issue as important or not. 

Sebastian Lemberger ’25, Climate Cafe: 

the main thing prompting me to take action regarding is the fact that it is essentially a moral imperative to act for every person on this earth. In our increasingly complicated political climate, there are very few issues in which there are no parties that will benefit from one side of the issue. This is not the case for climate change- it is an eventuality that will consume everyone from animals to fossil fuel companies if we do not stop it. In many cases, this is not something that you realize until you actually are hit by the effects of climate change. I, for instance, come from Colorado, which is a very dry place. However, in recent years, precipitation in the state has been becoming more and more infrequent, which has come with disastrous consequences. Last year, the state was ravaged by the Marshal Fires, which essentially appeared spontaneously in the middle of one of the state’s most densely populated areas due to a snowless winter and unusually high winds. The fires took out a sizable portion of a town right next to where I live, and it was a terrifying experience- the skies turned red and we had to evacuate. Events like the Marshal Fires highlight the moral responsibility that everyone on this planet has to fight the climate crisis, as if it is not dealt with, disasters like them will only become more frequent and more deadly.

Cathy Ma ’25, @agreenerblue: 

I frequent national parks with my friends and family and from the geysers and springs to the valleys and lakes, I’ve grown to value and appreciate the beautiful natural views. Having been in environmental clubs in both middle school and here at Andover, I’ve learned so much from my peers about how we are damaging mother nature. It’s empowering to see how passionate people on campus are about this cause and they inspire me to do more to stay informed on climate change and environmental justice. I try to stay optimistic and I’m so excited to see what our current generation will accomplish as well as celebrating this coming Earth Week!

Lena Ciganer-Albeniz ’25, Andover Climate Lobby:

Though I’ve always been cautious about things like not wasting water or bringing eco bags to the supermarket, I never dove deep into the dire effects of climate change until coming to Andover. The PA Sustainability Coalition has so many initiatives, each approaching climate change differently but all with the same mission of creating a sustainable and emission-free future. Through the many branches I’ve joined, I’ve learned the importance of fighting together to gain support from people in positions of power (administration, state reps, etc) who can then make life-changing decisions. Climate change affects everyone on different levels, and I acknowledge that I am in a privileged position as an Andover student. Therefore, I find it compulsory for myself and my fellow classmates to join the fight and create change, on both small and large scales. 

I care about climate change because without a healthy planet, there will be no healthy future for humans. 

Micheal Kawooya ’26, Divest Andover:

I’m from South Carolina. Back home, every time there’s a hurricane—and they’re becoming a biannual occurrence—they unravel the stability of our community. This mass destruction is expected, and to a certain extent, accepted due to their frequency.

I, personally do not accept it but I have just inherited a world where my community is and will be lucky if I leave it in one piece. None of us, with our combined brute force, considerable intelligence, and burning passion can turn back time to an Earth before any of these aforementioned problems existed. And those who can are so often smitten by green paper, rather than green energy. We, the youth, however, are forced to turn to the hope of the future. A future of clean energy, flourishing wildlife, safe communities, and a mended ozone. A future where my descendants can step outside and bask in the sun we’ve been gifted while breathing in the air at our disposal. A future where the tale of hapless teenagers who saw one chance to save what was left of a planet is history. I alone cannot stop climate change, but I will pull out all the stops trying.

Ella Kowal ’25, Direct Climate Action Initiative:

Every day I read reports in the news about another natural disaster, an environmental justice issue, or a species extinction. Every day I look for progress in our country and nothing is done. Seeing that I cannot rely on the United States’ leaders to address the climate crisis, I strive to make as much progress as I can on an individual level. Additionally, a lack of policy increases our need for individual action, a particular fascination of mine. I try to educate myself and others, participate in climate service, and regulate my climate footprint. 

As a resident of San Francisco, I have experienced more smoke days than snow days, when the air outside gets too unsafe for people to breathe as a result of annual fires throughout the state. As a member of this community I feel I have a responsibility to pressure our legislators to create better policy as well.

Jenny Jin ’24, Ambassadors for Climate Curriculum: 

A while ago there was a climate cafe where an Andover Alumni Mr. Park gave a lecture on how climate change is affecting society. I remember him saying that humanity isn’t going to be toast because of climate change, but the real danger of climate change is the injustices that come as a byproduct. This idea really stuck with me, and I think this is what really got me passionate about climate initiatives. I think the PASC is important on campus because its events and initiatives are helping the students to become subconsciously more mindful of their actions and the potential climate consequences

As a climate ambassador, I talk to teachers about including more climate resources in class. I think climate education is really important as it informs people of the danger of climate change, and I would love to see more conversations on climate injustice happening in class!

Bailey Xu ’26, Earth Week Planning:

The tale of the boiling frog is a popular analogy for climate change. The premise of this fable states that a frog in a pot of boiling water will instantly leap out, but in a pot of warm water that is slowly heated up, the frog will stay in the pot and eventually be boiled to death.

Growing up in the urban environment of Hong Kong, air pollution has remained a constant throughout my life. Invisible to the human eye, I became accustomed to its ubiquitous presence. But when great clouds of smog shrouded the glassy skyscrapers of Beijing, when apocalyptic scenes of sand-coloured skies flooded the internet, when my family deluged my Beijing cousins with confused, fearful texts—air pollution became visible, tangible, and impossible for me to overlook.

That experience was a dash of scalding water into my pot, another reminder in a long line of collapsing glaciers, bleached coral reefs, skeletal polar bears, floods, fires, typhoons, and countless others. Our earth is slowly boiling, and we all are too. But what distinguishes us from the frog is that we also have our hands on the stove dials. Please, let us stop twisting.

Magnus Julin ’25, Divest Andover: 

I care about sustainability because of how harmful climate change is to our ecosystems and biodiversity. Time has shaped our world into a wonder of diversity and uniqueness, with so many different and special organisms, each with their own way to fight to live. Every day, biomes that have taken eons to evolve and develop are irreversibly broken by human hands.  Such beautiful organisms are becoming more and more rare by the day, edging closer and closer to extinction, many of which will never be seen again. So much natural beauty and splendor has already been lost. The effects are visible everywhere, even at our own school. Weather patterns in New England are becoming ever more inconsistent and extreme as warming affects the area.  Even the plants and animals themselves are changing. Many more southern species like the red-bellied woodpecker are becoming more prevalent and many of the endemic species are forced to shift northward. Thus, why warmer winters have forced maple syrup production to move north, why ticks have been able to live longer and multiply, and why trees are leafing earlier. So much damage has already been done, if we don’t change soon, we may not recognize our home.