The School celebrated its 22nd annual Eco Day on April 24, a day of community outreach and outdoor service projects that underscores Hotchkiss's commitment to environmental stewardship. In the morning, students gathered in Walker Auditorium to listen to keynote speaker Miranda Massie '84, founder of the country's first climate museum — named, appropriately, The Climate Museum — in New York City.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Massie, a former civil rights lawyer, felt compelled to bring climate change to the forefront of public consciousness. In 2015, she established The Climate Museum as a non-profit and hired a board of directors. While The Climate Museum still lacks a permanent home, Massie is focused on building public interest by installing temporary exhibits around New York City to help make climate change part of everyday conversation.
Massie showed students a behind-the-scenes look at the museum's first exhibit, an installation at the Parsons School of Design that merged film, photography, and painting in an exploration of ice core science, a way of measuring changes in the earth's climate over millennia through the study of a glacier's layers. The ultimate goal of these exhibits, Massie explained, is to inspire creativity in the face of today's most pressing challenge: the impact of climate change on the world's most vulnerable populations.
"I first came into this work through social inequality," she said. "There is no greater multiplier and intensifier of inequality in this country than climate change. We face an enormous challenge as human beings that is not distributed equally by race or by class."
She urged students to fight against that inequality by getting involved in public efforts to address climate change — including The Climate Museum's Youth Advisory Council, which will allow students to play a greater role in the development of museum exhibits and outreach projects — and, above all, to make talking about climate change a daily habit.
"It can feel overwhelming to talk about, but by talking about it, we come to realize that everything is possible," she said.
Following Massie's talk and an outdoor lunch served on Bissell Common, students and their advisors divided into teams to work on service projects on and around campus. Some groups picked up trash along the road in neighboring towns, on the shoreline at the Hotchkiss beach, on nearby trails, and at Salmon Kill stream; others got their hands dirty at Fairfield Farm, pulling up fence posts, clearing brush and barbed wire, and constructing fencing and wooden tent platforms. Inside the Mary M. Graf Barn at the Farm, students spent the afternoon packing about 10,000 individual meals for Rise Against Hunger, a nonprofit that delivers food to underdeveloped countries.
Gillian Duquette '19, who worked clearing brush on the Larsen Perimeter Trail, said working with her peers was a great bonding experience because "we were all working toward a common goal."
Duquette said she was inspired by Massie's presentation earlier that morning. "It's going to be our generation that will change the way people think about climate change and do something about it. It's up to us to come together and find ways to make that change."