Indiana Youth Present Climate Conference

More than 120 high school students and environmental activists met at the Indianapolis Interchurch Center Friday, September 16, 2022, for a conference organized by a team of high school activists led by Rahul Duran (West Lafayette), Ashlyn Walker (Carmel) and Chenyoo Liu (Carmel). Confront The Crisis

In the 2022 legislative session, they had worked with Senator Ron Alting to craft SB 255 for Indiana to create a Climate Action Plan. The purpose of the conference was to get environmental experts to share their successes moving communities toward greater mitigation, sustainability, and adaptation to the changing climate and from that feedback promote another attempt at legislation that could move forward in the Indiana General Assembly.

Speakers included:

Dr. Sarah Mincey, Managing Director of IU Environmental Resilience Institute

Dr. Mincey described the resources that are available for Hoosiers through ERI. Check resources at their website. Environmental Resilience Institute  

(Note: The website promotes a webinar on understanding the benefits of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act on 9.23.22 at 12 PM. Consider signing up for this important webinar on that website.)

Alison ZajdelRichmond Rising

Zajdel described the process of working with a city council that has a 5:4 Republican majority.  Her presentation included credit to Earlham students for doing assessments and analysis as Richmond’s community action plan was developed.

Dr. Rae Schnapp, Indiana Forest Alliance

Dr. Schnapp reminded everyone about Indiana’s forest history. Before colonization, over 90 % of Indiana was covered in hardwoods and the remainder was wetlands and prairie. Within 100 years, much of Indiana was deforested for the lumber industry and agriculture. Most of Indiana’s current forests are second and third growth with a few rare areas of virgin trees.  Her most important point was: mature trees are more valuable than any recently planted young trees for carbon sequestration and flood control. Newly planted trees have high mortality rates, so it is important to protect all the mature trees possible.

Danny Ernstes, UAW Region 2B

Ernstes is a survivor of the closed Navistar plant. He described the impact that shutting down power train plants as EV transition occurs, would affect over 20,000 workers in the Midwest. In 2019, he began developing a relationship with Indiana legislators. He described a coalition of UAW representatives, industry, Governor Holcomb’s office, academics and graduate students at Purdue that created HB 1168. The bill became law and has resulted in the Indiana EV Product Commission, About IN EV production commission.  This bipartisan bill was sponsored by Mike Karickhoff, Carey Hamilton, J.D. Ford and Jim Buck.  It was heartening to see blue collar, white collar and the academy all work together to create this commission.

Additional speakers included: Heather Zeto of Guidon, Guidon design, Doug Fick, ASHRAE, Ben Inskeep, Citizen’s Action Coalition, Kerri Garvin, Greater Indiana Clean Cities Inc., Laura Jones, Cummins Sustainability, Ahan Bhattacharyya, a student who led a climate group in Terre Haute EARTHlings and Jarron Tichenor, a minority architecture student at Ball State who shared examples of sustainable communities.  Afterwards, the students took notes at small group breakouts to further develop ideas for the upcoming legislative session.

Opportunities for Indiana:

  1. Contact ERI to help your community develop action plans.
  2. Update the building codes to current ASHRAE standards: plumbing and energy codes are 15-20 years out of date.
  3. Enable thrid party Purchase Power Agreements to finance solar projects.
  4. Undersize your solar capacity to reduce electric bills, instead of relying on net metering credits.
  5. Update the State Forest Management Plans
  6. Learn about the opportunities that are present in the Inflation Reduction Act.  Two resources are and IRA Summary

Earlier that week, Diana Hadley and I had the opportunity to meet virtually with representatives of Faith in Place, the newly expanded organization that now incorporates Hoosier & Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light with the main Illinois organization. Faith In Place  

Faith organizations can receive education on starting and sustaining Green Teams and work on projects benefiting the larger community.  FIP has also developed a policy arm to work with state legislators.  Explore the website if you are interested in learning more about Green Teams and energy savings at your meeting.

Mary Blackburn, Creation Care Advocate of IFCL