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Small but mighty, Thompson Greens aim to change the world

Dr. Elizabeth Grace Rocco provided the following summary of the Thompson Green Team, whose elementary students were on an environmental march Friday, Oct. 22. Watch for them again, walking to the Center and back on Friday, Oct. 29, from 2:40 to 5:45 p.m. Included will be a fashion show and costume contest. Categories include the trashiest trash monsters, ecosystem superheroes, the scariest and dinosaurs (we don't want to end up like those guys). Facebook >> 

Thompson Green Team, Oct. 22, 2021. / Elizabeth Rocco photoThompson Green Team, Oct. 22, 2021. / Elizabeth Rocco photo See more photos here >>

Arlington's Thompson Elementary School Green Team is back in action calling on adults to phase out plastics and address the climate crisis.

Fifth grader Lali who joined the team Oct. 22 didn't waste time. She shouted from a green megaphone: "Our planet is in a crisis. A healthy Earth is priceless. We need for you to fight this."

This week that means calling President Biden and members of Congress to make sure they pass ambitious climate legislation in the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better plan. With universal preschool, free community-college education, expanded Medicare and Medicaid, lower prescription drug prices, child tax credits, paid family leave, housing investments, a Civilian Climate Corps and tax cuts for electric vehicles, there's a lot to love in the Build Back Better bill, but does it guarantee these students a livable climate? 

The sweeping climate reforms of the Green New Deal were not included in the bill, and Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are declining to support parts of the bill, threatening passage. Democratic leader hope for for a vote Oct. 31.

Climate conference Oct. 31

With the U.N. Climate Conference starting Oct. 31, the actions taken in Congress next week will have a significant impact on whether world leaders pursue the ambitious climate commitments we need to curb carbon emissions and preserve a livable climate for this generation. 

That's why after its second meeting since 2019, the Thompson Green Team decided to take to the streets to demand climate action. Since 2015, the team has been leading zero-waste campaigns to reduce plastic pollution, promote industrial composting and address the climate crisis. The third- and fifth-grade leaders know that their Earth is on a spit, and fossil fuels: coal, oil, gas and plastics are fueling global warming and extreme weather events. 

The girls also want you to know about the plastic pipeline, so, dressed in trash costumes, they pushed their Earth-on-a-spit set in a walker all over town, while shouting chants such as "No more trash. No more oil. Keep the carbon in the soil."

Fracking and its byproduct, ethane are fueling plastic production. Despite widespread concerns about the animal, human, and planetary health harms of plastic and the need for an ethane cracker factory to use extreme heat to change ethane into ethylene, investment in new petrochemicals factories is driven to profit off ethylene, a building block of plastics, instead of pursuing sustainable energy investments.

Since 2010, more than $200 billion have been invested in 333 petrochemical factories. Beyond Plastic's “The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change” states: "As of 2020, the U.S. plastics industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year. This amount is equivalent to the average emissions from 116 average-sized (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants.”

Thompson Green Team also wants you to know, at best, 9 percent of plastics gets recycled. Even when the consumer does their best to sort and clean recyclable items, they get rejected because of contamination or low demand. It's been a growing concern during Covid. 

The reduction in recycling may be more related to the recycling sector's vulnerability to changes in the price of oil and natural gas. When there was less demand for fossil fuels during the pandemic, prices plummeted, encouraging petrochemical businesses to make plastics instead of fuels. More new plastics meant reduced demand for recycled plastics.

Pumpkin-recycling Nov. 4

After brainstorming, the students plan a pumpkin-recycling and -composting event, for all elementary schools, set for 1:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.

Arlington Green Team and Black Earth run pumpkin recycling outside all the elementary schools: Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Peirce (4 p.m.); Stratton (4:20) and Bishop (4:40) as well as Thursday, Nov. 4: Hardy (1), Thompson (1:20), Dallin (3), Brackett (3:20).

Fifth grader Amelia, who was part of the team when it led weekly climate rallies in the fall 2019, knew she wanted to organize. At the second meeting when one of the new third graders, Leili, suggested they organize a plastic trash flash mob, she was named "Tornado of Trash."

The fifth graders added: "We will sing, chant, and march to Arlington Center and back." Green Team mom Jess Fallon, whose preschooler joined the march on her scooter, asked about stopping for ice cream at Abbott's and received a resounding, "Yes!" In an hour and a half, they made a doable, creative and strategic plan, a script for morning announcements and a promotional video. And that's why the Thompson Green Team says, "The Earth is on fire, and so are we." 

What happened Oct. 22

On Oct. 22, the group of elementary students, dressed in costumes made out of plastic trash, eagerly bounded down the street playing percussion instruments. Fifth graders Ana and Amelia led the singing of their "Don't Make Trash" song, which was written in January 2019 in Ms. Dichter's second-grade class and adapted from Coco Kallis's “Don't Dump Trash” song. Watch and listen here >> 

The then-third graders had added a few verses when they joined the Fridays for Future youth climate movement in 2019: "Don't burn oil anymore. Keep that temperature down. Keep carbon underground. Don't burn gas anymore. Climate action is what we need. No more pipelines and cutting trees. Don't burn coal anymore. Pass climate legislation. Protect our generation,... Don't make trash anywhere. Don't even think about it. Let's learn to live without it."

Reflecting the Green Team's deep caring for the Earth, Lali had a last demand: "Take action to help our planet." Fifth graders Amara and Tali added, "Climate change really sucks."  

Join the Thompson Green Oct. 29, when it expects to be at Mass. Ave. and Pleasant from 4 to 5 p.m. Before heading east on Mass. Ave. back to Thompson. This event is part of global youth-led #FridaysForFuture climate rallies to put pressure on lawmakers and world leaders to pass climate legislation by Oct. 31 and make bold commitments to eliminate carbon pollution at the U.N. Climate Change Conference from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.

June 19, 2019: Measuring Thompson's green efforts: Zero gets an A, state awards

This news summary and announcement, which includes opinion, was published Monday Oct. 25, 2021.

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