Small group, big goal

Four SAHS juniors start Transition Stillwater to make city environmentally friendly

 Sam Schirvar listens to his small group share ideas during the Transition Stillwater meeting on Monday at the Stillwater Public Library.

Sam Schirvar listens to his small group share ideas during the Transition Stillwater meeting on Monday at the Stillwater Public Library. (Gazette Photo by Avery Cropp)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Four Stillwater Area High School juniors are taking that Margaret Mead quote to heart as they roll out the first phase of their new organization, Transition Stillwater.

Sofia Logan, Sam Schirvar, Mary Knaak and Maria Kalambokidis are hoping to encourage collaboration within Stillwater’s already established environmental groups to make the city more environmentally friendly. And if the crowd of more than 40 people gathered at the Stillwater Public Library on Earth Day Monday is any indication, the students might have something.

The new group is organized by the high school students and advised by

Advisor Bretta Chaplinski, Maria Kalambokidis, Mary Knaak, Sofia Logan, and Sam Schirvar. Pose for a photo before their presentation at the Stillwater Public Library on Monday. The group is the organizing force behind Transition Stillwater.

Advisor Bretta Chaplinski, Maria Kalambokidis, Mary Knaak, Sofia Logan, and Sam Schirvar. Pose for a photo before their presentation at the Stillwater Public Library on Monday. The group is the organizing force behind Transition Stillwater. (Gazette Photo by Avery Cropp)

Stillwater Junior High School seventh-grade science teacher Bretta Chaplinski.

It is part of umbrella organizations called Transition U.S. and Transition International which wants to take initiatives on environmental actions that will make the community sustainable and resilient.

Its goal is to be inter-generational and the high schoolers want to tackle projects such as reducing the city’s carbon footprints, raising climate change awareness, beginning re-localization with local food, produce and business support and also working on environmentally-friendly projects such as recycling bins downtown, improving mass transit use, adding LED lights downtown area and helping with clean-up of places like Lake McKusick.

“The issues we’re concerned with are finding more ways to guide the city to create changes within itself,” Schirvar said. “We hope to find programs that are already in the area that we can work with and add value to.”

Born out of what they call their “environmental awakenings” the students were spurred to help the environment through a variety of experiences.

Schirvar and Logan are part of a group called World Savvy. They lived in Bangladesh for a month studying the effects of climate change, This made a huge impact on Schirvar, who said he’s decided to devote his life to solving existing problems related to climate change and climate refugees.

Kalambokidis traveled on the MN350 Earth Train, organized to lobby for clean and sustainable energy in Washington, D.C. After talking with a various
environmentalists, she was struck by how devoted people are to solving problems arising from environmental issues.

Knaak became involved in environmental concerns after reading a book called “Field Notes from a Catastrophe,” which talks about the effects of melting ice caps. She admits it scared her and she almost gave up and resigned herself to inaction.
“But then I talked to Sofia and she asked if I wanted to come and lobby with her, and I realized I could take action and try to stop the threat and decided to just go for it.” Knaak said.

Logan had a very powerful experience when she protested in Washington, D.C.

“There were thousands in the crowd and we were listening to people speak before we even started marching. We were all standing there on one of the coldest days ever, protesting the pipeline, not knowing if our voices were heard or the media impact we had and I looked at all the people dedicated to the cause,” Logan said. “We could have easily given up and not gone there but we were there with thousands of people and we became one with one purpose.”

That’s what this group wants to create in Stillwater.

“Getting involved in this (Transition Stillwater) just felt right. We call ourselves the core of it, and we’re not super knowledgeable, but with the help of other people in the community, with their knowledge, we can create change and actually put it into action.” Logan said. “We’re hoping to get strong enough roots established that if it’s left up to the community that people will care about climate change and the effect it has on them.”

When asked if they were aiming to leave a legacy with their movement they agreed to a point.

“It’s not about our movement, or our legacy It’s more about Stillwater’s movement,” Kalambokidis said.

“I think for us as youth, environmental issues are ours to deal with. It won’t get better in the future if we don’t take action now.” Knaak said.

Though the group is only in the beginning stages, gathering contacts and creating their plans they envision a group of people from a variety of backgrounds, ages and experiences united in being environmentally conscious and creating opportunities for the community to grow together into a ‘greener’ place. They plan to start a club at the high school next year and are currently working on a website.

To get involved or to learn more about this group check out their facebook page www.facebook.com/TransitionStillwater or email transitionstillwater@gmail.com

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