GVSU hosts fourth annual Youth Virtual Conference on Sustainability

Courtesy / Grand Rapids RCE Virtual Conference

Courtesy / Grand Rapids RCE Virtual Conference

Alexandra Loyd

On Feb. 20, Grand Rapids Public Schools partnered with the Center for Economicology in Grand Rapids to host the fourth annual Youth Virtual Conference on sustainability and climate change. 

According to a Grand Valley State University press release, the schools involved in the event are part of the United Nations University Network of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs). GVSU is a member of the Grand Rapids RCE, which also includes other local universities and west Michigan businesses. 

This year, presentations came from students in Portland, Ore., La Paz, Costa Rica and Minna, Nigeria. 

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘A Regional Perspective on Climate and Sustainability.’ According to the GVSU press release, the conference will serve as a forum for students and educators to present on sustainability-related climate change research and issues of their communities and regions.

GVSU’s eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialis Vince St. Germaine said each student was given 15 minutes to virtually present on the topic of sustainability and climate before participating in a round-table discussion with the audience members. 

In the past, the RCE Youth Conference has touched on topics of water conservation issues, food issues and regional energy systems. Every year, the topics are different but are always directly related to sustainability.

“This project seeks to give students the perspective and practice of a global dialogue, in the hopes that they will better understand the unique climate change dilemmas facing the regions of the world and in turn reveal and embrace the universal themes of sustainability through dialogue and collaboration to solve complex systems issues at home in their communities, as well as around the world,” St. Germaine said. 

St. Germaine said that these virtual conferences continue to pave the way for future important RCE interactions and student-to-student learning opportunities on sustainability in all corners of the world.

“Students are always encouraged to continue their study of and research these topics and to reach out to other participants via the virtual platform for the purpose of carrying on a dialogue about the topic,” St. Germaine said. “The world’s dilemmas of tomorrow will be faced by the youth of today and it is imperative that we equip them with the tools to communicate, collaborate, innovate and problem-solve in order to begin to address these complex issues of sustainability with regard to climate, food, water and energy.”