Vineyarders join Cape community in challenging climate change


Congressman Bill Keating addresses students at the youth climate summit in Harwich.

By Jackson Wojnowski 

A group of student leaders from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Protect Your Environment Club (PYE) attended a climate summit in Harwich last Wednesday that was organized by students on Cape Cod and Mass Audubon. 

They met with students from throughout the Cape and Islands to discuss plans for immediate action to combat climate change, hear from Congressman Bill Keating, and gain insight on how to conduct a Vineyard Climate Summit in the near-future.

“I think it’s important to include different intermediaries when talking about climate change,” said Felix Neck educational coordinator Josey Kirkland, who has spent the past year organizing the summit.

Students found discussion around climate action plans to be really powerful, and took an interest in linking the plans to specific actions they could take on-Island. These plans include topics such as food, water, pollution, and politics.

“We [created a] political activism plan, and we thought that one was really good because the students were leading it,” said senior Paige Pogue. “We are talking about [combining] our high school PYE Club with Plastic-Free MV.” 

Plastic-Free MV, an organization started by concerned 5th and 6th graders on the Island, has successfully worked to pass bans on single-use plastics in the towns of Chilmark, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury. PYE hopes to work with them to pass similar bans in the far more populous towns of Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Vineyard Haven. This would include attending town hall meetings to pass specific bylaws as well as raising general awareness among Islanders.

While the PYE leaders mainly focused on how to further climate action on the Island, they also gained valuable perspective on the varying challenges faced by other student-activists in the region. While teachers in the MVRHS community have helped plan our weekly climate strikes and administrators have sponsored trips, other communities have not had the same luck.

“They have [school] administration taking down flyers for environmental marches,” said Paige in regards to what a student from St. John Paul II High School told her. 

“In Barnstable they didn’t let students participate in the global climate strike,” added Ms. Kirkland. 

Ian Ives of Mass Audubon summed up the lesson: “You [Vineyarders] have the advantage of a small community, so things get done much more efficiently. In big communities it takes a lot more effort.”