Shining light on the advocacy and sustainability work of young environmental leaders working to make their communities safer and cleaner. As part of our commitment to youth engagement and equity, we are holding an ongoing series of interviews with individuals and sharing their stories to spread awareness.
Josh Koppel is a 17-year old climate activist and high school senior from Cheshire, CT. He is the Vice President of National Honors Society, the student liaison to the Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire, the Treasurer of Cheshire High School Conservation Club, and he is involved in Cheshire Democratic Town Committee. He is an incoming freshman at the University of Delaware, studying Environmental Policy as his major. He will begin his studies in a study abroad program in Spain.
His interest in the climate movement began in an environmental science course at Cheshire High School. His teacher recommended him for the Natural Resources Conservation Academy, a summer program provided by the University of Connecticut to empower participants with the supportive knowledge, skills, and resources, in promoting and improving environmental action in their community. The program provided him with educational, hands-on outdoor experiences regarding invasive species, water treatment, waterways, land conservation, and many more environmental topics. The final component of the program is to carry out a community environmental action project with an adult mentor.
Because of Josh’s desire to educate his town on environmental issues, he chose to host a sustainability fair in Cheshire for his project. With the support of grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Greater New Haven Community Foundation, he was able to host the fair In October of 2021. He gathered volunteers for the fair from his community, such as members from the Conservation Club. Various local organizations were involved in the fair such as Save the Sound, New Haven Energy, and Solar Technology. The fair included educational workshops on renewable energy, ecological restoration and water protection. There was an impressive 200 people in attendance. His leadership helped inspire environmental action in Cheshire.
Currently, Josh and the Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire are working on passing a Climate Emergency Resolution in Cheshire. They intend to propose the resolution to the town council soon and are hopeful that Cheshire will pass the CER. Additionally, Josh and the Coalition are hoping passage of the CER will make environmental topics less taboo in Cheshire and the Council will act to implement more environmental safeguards in the town.
We asked Josh what solutions he believed were important for making a sustainable world, he replied that we need to eliminate global dependence on fossil fuels as soon as possible. He commends efforts for renewable energy and technologies such as solar energy, wind power, and geothermal. He believes we need to stop appeasing industries that oppose renewable energy, in efforts to fund political activity. He also feels that we need to create more amnesty for climate change refugees and change agricultural habits.
Lastly, his advice for young activists looking to get involved in climate advocacy was to use all the resources at their disposal. He found involvement in the movement by building rapport and gaining support from his town leaders. He said: “there’s no limit to using your voice. Organize and mobilize, and things will come together.”