Published on: 1/25/21
By Claire Ramos
Ben McLaughlin, always knew he wanted to go into a career centered around protecting the environment. Earth Team was the perfect opportunity for him to do that along with teaching others about environmental issues.
“I think personally that the most effective way to make a change is to teach people about the issues.” McLauglin said.
McLaughlin explained that most factors that contribute to the issues surrounding our environment are done unknowingly by people. His goal is to help people realize that these contributing factors can be avoided.
“People don’t drive to work everyday because they like emitting carbon into the atmosphere, they drive to work because that’s what they have to do. A little education about the effects your actions can have can go a long way to getting people to make positive changes in their lives, as far as the environment is concerned,” said McLaughlin.
Earth Team is a paid student internship program that focuses on environmental science. It gives students who are interested the opportunity to explore more about the topic through guest speakers, programming, and learning more about the environmental issues. It also promotes students doing good deeds for the Earth by introducing activities like restoration, planting, and removing invasive species.
“Generally our focus is working with the environment to teach other people about the issues that are facing us locally and globally, and then actually getting our hands in the dirt and doing the work.” Earth Team coordinator Ben McLaughlin said.
Senior Lillian Luong joined Earth Team this year. She was compelled to do so because of an interest she already had in the environment along with the referral from her cousin who has also been a part of Earth Team. Her role in Earth Team is a sustainable youth intern which means she listens to lessons given by her leader then does assignments surrounding them.
Although the online platform Earth Team had to adopt is difficult for Luong after already spending so much of her time on Zoom, she is overall happy for this experience.
Luong expands on how she is appreciative of everything she has been able to learn from Earth Team and why she’s grateful she has been able to take part in this program.
“I think that everything I have learned is valuable in its own way. We’ve learned about environmental injustice, environmental racism, the effects of climate change, plastic in the ocean, and our plastic consumption. So to me, everything that I have learned has contributed to my actions and thoughts. It has made me think about my contribution to Earth.” Luong said. “The environment was something that I did care about but I never took action. I never joined any environmental clubs, [...] I hadn’t done anything myself and I’m glad that I finally did.”
McLaughlin attributes the reason he became involved with Earth Team was to try to get more people to care and become invested in environmental issues. His hope is that the team of students eventually act as teachers for their communities so the environmental awareness spreads.
“Earth Team is especially aimed toward youth because it is very important that they care about these issues,” McLaughlin stated. “Some older people have this attitude of ‘I’m not going to deal with that so why would I even care,’ but for young people, you’re going to have to deal with these problems. If you look at how smoky it was back in September, that's a direct result of climate change. [...] So it’s literally already affecting all of our lives.”
Senior Isabella Castillo also joined Earth Team for the 2020-2021 school year. She was interested in joining because of her ongoing concern about the environment and to be able to come together with a group who shared her awareness. She was excited to work with her team and for them to come up with ideas to combat environmental issues.
“I was always very environmentally conscious. My family composts, we do the Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) and I feel like Alameda County really emphasises being environmentally friendly. There’s charges for paper bags, we have three [waste] bins. Most places only have one, everything goes in the trash. So I feel like where I’m from, it makes it easy for me to be conscious of the environment.” Castillo said.
Castillo also struggled with the online platform not only because the 1.5 hour Earth Team lesson is a lot after a school day but also because it was so far from what she was expecting.
“Not being able to be with them, I feel like with Earth Team is about being outside but instead we’re cooped up inside behind our screen so that has been a hard adjustment. I feel like I'm missing out.” Castillo said.
However Earth Team members get different assignments sometimes forcing them to get out. That has been Castillo’s favorite part of the experience so far.
“I had to pick up 100 pieces of trash, it helps us with data because we input it [the location and amount of trash] in an app to track how much trash is in our community. Castillo explained. She described how in a small area, within her neighborhood, she found the majority of trash. “People throw away liquor bottles, fast food wrappers, plastic, all sorts of junk. That just tells you how much I helped my community. It looked cleaner after I did it and it made me feel good.”
Earth Team not only teaches students about compost and environmental science but they hope to cultivate awareness in the team members. If students are able to have this awareness regarding the environment, they may be able to recognize where they are able to help.
McLaughlin said. “We have students go out in their communities and look at plants and animals and insects, and try to understand them or ask questions, because there's so much crazy, wonderful, beautiful nature happening all around us all the time and we kind of tune it out. When you start paying attention to all the little things, [...] you know where change needs to happen and you can take part in that."