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Students suggest environmental solutions

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Photo by Annette Brand Students from the Paonia Experiential Leadership Academy researched a variety of environmental issues, then offered solutions to the Delta County Commissioners.

At the March 5 Delta County Commissioners meeting, eight middle school students from Paonia Experiential Leadership Academy (PELA) gave presentations regarding their suggestions for dealing with critical environmental problems the earth is facing today.

The students were introduced to the commissioners by their teacher, Emily Wassell, Ph.D., who is also director of PELA.

Following are excerpts from each student's presentation in the order in which they appeared.

Lisa Eller: The High Country News' article "Climate Change and the West" shows blood curdling facts about what this planet will be like in just twelve short years of irresponsible energy usage. I read this article with my school and some of my fellow classmates were on the verge of tears.

The future of our environment is solar energy. ... With more than 100 milliwatts of storage capacity, we can store when energy demand is low, and supply when energy demand is high. Converting to solar energy is cost effective and environmentally effective.

Ellie Feder: I want generations after me to see this valley, but they won't unless we reduce our water use. We use 400 gallons of water a day, each and every one of us. That's a lot of water.

If all government buildings have a policy such as replacing broken fixtures with low flow toilets and faucets, it would save a substantial amount of water, and money. We could also encourage everyone to do the same thing when remodeling or building a new home.

Tyler Delvaugh: Our topsoil is getting used faster than it can be replenished. If our soil isn't full of nutrients we aren't going to be able to make enough food. If we keep building over the rich topsoil, we aren't going to have a bright future.

Considering agriculture is such a large part of this county, topsoil should be a more critical problem. We need good soil to survive.

Krimzin Black: Compost is a mild, slow release, natural fertilizer that won't burn plants like chemical fertilizers. It provides organic matter and nutrients which will improve plant growth and lead to better yields.

Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash. We recycle and compost about 87 tons of this material.

Delta County would benefit from having a countywide composting program because our county would make money and provide jobs. This small percentage of help could save our planet.

Nikoya Schevene: I am here to share ideas about how creating arbor cities will greatly benefit Delta County.

Samuel Wade, with his two sons, imported many trees by covered wagon from Missouri (over 530 fruit trees and over 1,000 grape vines and berry vines). All he had to keep them from freezing was a campfire. In Paonia he built a two-mile long ditch to irrigate his new fruit plants. Two thirds of the fruit died in the next winter, but those that survived made a home here that has spread throughout the town and become one of our major exports.

It has been determined in Salt Lake City that a tree canopy reduced surface runoff by 11.3 million gallons during a one-inch rain.

Matthew Delaney: I speak on behalf of banning plastic bags in Delta County. Every year Americans alone use over 1 billion plastic bags, which uses 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.

These bags can be costly to pay for and to clean up after. Also, plastic bags almost never degrade. Ridgway has banned plastic bags. Steamboat has banned plastic bags. The entire state of Hawaii has banned plastic bags and California is taking steps towards banning plastic bags.

Please help us put a ban on plastic bags or at least replace oil-based bags with bio-degradable ones made from things such as corn and hemp.

Saffire Black: I think having more bike paths would benefit this county in a very positive way. It would decrease injuries to cyclists and people would feel more safe when biking. It would control obesity and promote physical fitness. Tourists would be more interested and drawn to the county.

Bicycling and walking projects also create more jobs per dollar than road projects. More bike paths would reduce the number of car trips people take and, with the money saved from lower travel costs, people would have more money to spend on local businesses.

Cleya Hartter: I've noticed changes in nature that will affect the economics of Delta County forever. Colorado is getting warmer. The temperatures in Denver have risen 50 percent since 1970. I couldn't find any statistics on temperature changes in Delta County.

We can no longer say that Colorado is in a drought. It's become so much more than that. A word to describe it is aridification. Aridification is when a region or area becomes increasingly dry over a long period of time. Unlike a drought, which will go away and climate return to what it was, aridification doesn't go away.

Once we can make that switch in our minds and accept that the heating of our area is long lasting, we can work as a county, a group, a community to change the way we live our lives for the greater good of our planet.

Commissioners Suppes and Lane expressed their appreciation to the students for their presentations. (Commissioner Roeber was absent.) They also complimented the students and their teacher on the subject matter and the knowledge and understanding the students brought to their presentations.

The Paonia Experiential Leadership Academy is a private secondary school (grades 7-12) in a small agricultural valley in Colorado. The student-centered school collaborates with students and parents to facilitate meaningful experiential learning field trips that develop the head, heart and hands of the student. The school integrates the seven realms of well-being with core academic content to create relevant learning opportunities. The focus is on progress, accountability and quality.

The website for the school is https://www.paonia experientialleadershipacademy.org.

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Commissioners, Paonia, Paonia Experiental Leadership Academy, PELA, School
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