The Journey to South Dakota. Just kidding, Nebraska.

Monday May 29, 2017 Allan

My name is Allan Chen. I am a recent graduate of Cherry Creek High School and a proud member of the Pine Ridge Eco Action Solar Panel install team!  We met in the morning at the King Soopers with Boyce, Conley, Stella, and Claire driving in Boyce’s hippie van and Abbie driving Robin’s “Blueberry” with Robin, Lina, Riley, and me. We took the fast route and lost them a little which resulted in a quick “what part of follow me don’t you understand.”

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Lunch break from looking for a campsite (Lina and Stella)

With our journey under way it became time for stories and sing-a-longs. Catchphrase and Disney songs made the supposedly 5 hour drive fly by until we stopped at a gas station near the first, but not last, world famous Taco John’s. When we finally arrived at our campsite in Hot Springs, South Dakota, we discovered that the week’s campground would cost us nearly $200, simply outrageous! We then drove around for hours to RV parks and open fields, trying to find a nice, affordable campsite. Just when all hope seemed lost we stumbled upon the beautiful but quaint Walgren Lake, which happened to be a few cranky hours away in Nebraska.

The lake shore was nice and sandy, but had some questionable foam and dead fish parts. We were excited to set up camp and quickly got to work setting up our two tents and Boyce’s portable camping kitchen. We collected firewood, played Frisbee in the fields, lounged in the hammock, and enjoyed the peacefulness of the location.

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Sunset from our campsite

 

Dinner was cooked to perfection by Chef Allan, who some might call a culinary master. The platters arranged with remarkably exquisite quesadillas and an elegant but simple side of chips and salsa filled the stomachs of all our hungry campers.

We spent the rest of the night by the campfire, telling jokes, stories, and relaxing, knowing that we had a hard day’s work ahead of us in the morning. This tranquility was only interrupted by the sun making its descent over the lake, casting glowing red, orange, and purple hues all over the sky. We later made S’mores, and many of us had some more later, until the stars emerged. Using Abbie and Robin’s “sky scanners” we named all the stars and constellations. Finally, as the fire died down we headed to our tent; each snuggled in our own warm sleeping bags, and prepared ourselves for the chilly night and early morning ahead of us.

 

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Chowing down on quesadillas

Walk for Pine Ridge West Middle School

Thank you for visiting Ecological Action’s site, click HERE to donate to the Pine Ridge Solar Project!

Hello! My Name is Robin Tutchton, I’m a student at Cherry Creek High School and a participant of the club – EcoAction. This week, I was one of the presenters that talked about to students at West Middle School about raising money for an important cause!

This summer, with West Middle School’s help, EcoAction is installing solar panels on the home of Mr. Conquering Bear, a disabled veteran who lives on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This individual lives in a very impoverished community and often has trouble making ends meet because his electricity bill is so expensive.

In Greenwood Village all of Wests’ students typicaly have access to electricity. Yet just 5 hours away, 40% of residents of Pine Ridge live without it. We discussed with students how not being able to turn lights on at night would affect our ability to do homework, not being able to charge our phones would inhibit our communication, and not being able to keep food in the refrigerator would cause us to have trouble preserving our food. Electricity is a fundamental human right.

A team of EcoAction members is traveling to Mr.Conquering Bear’s house in June and installing solar panels on his roof. Solar energy, once implemented, is not only an environmentally sustainable alternative to coal or natural gas, it is cheap and reliable. Solar panels will lower Mr.Conquering Bear’s electricity bill and will ensure he has consistent access to electricity.

Now, as us “Eco-Actionites” have grown up we have realized something that all our parents have been telling us  – things in this world cost money.

Every year the students of 7th grade organize a fundraising walk.  We are so happy to sponsor the fundraising walk, this year for solar for Mr. Conquering Bear.

All money we raise will go directly to purchasing the solar panels for Mr Conquering Bear.

Every contribution helps.

Students of West can donate either through a check to made out to Ecological Action at CCHS, by giving cash to a SSR Teacher, or online by clicking HERE

Thank you so much!

Please scroll through our blog to read about past projects!

Many of us presenting were former West Middle School students and it was a blast to catch up with our old teachers and walk throughout the building remembering our middle school years. The kids were engaging and very knowledgeable about green living and the use of solar energy and were full of wonderful questions about solar panels, Pine Ridge, and Eco Action. All of us had so much fun talking to the students of 7th grade!

-Robin Tutchton

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Katya Zabelski, Robin Tutchton, Abbie Weeks, and Allan Chen present to West Middle School’s 7th Grade.

 

 

Patxi’s Pizza Fundraiser

Greetings, Pizza lovers! Yes, I did say pizza! Ecological Action is having a fundraiser! Come eat with us on Wednesday, April 19th at Patxi’s Pizza on University and Hampden. 10% of the proceeds will go to purchase solar panels for a Veteran on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation (learn more about this solar installation by reading the blog post below).

If you have already joined us for Pizza, or are enjoying a slice right now, we really appreciate it! Thank you for taking the time to look at our website to see what we are up to. Looking to donate more than 10% of your bill? Click on the link below to help!

Click HERE to Donate

Continue to check this blog and share it with your friends and family to see what Eco Action is up to and how the solar panel installment goes this summer! But for now, enjoy that pizza! Yum!

 

Peace and Love,

Riley (EcoAction Club Member)

The Beginnings of a Bright Future

This summer, Ecological Action is installing a photovoltaic system on a veteran’s home in the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota. We are thrilled to be partnering with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit with offices in Colorado in the solar energy industry.

“GRID Alternatives’ vision is a successful transition to clean, renewable energy that includes everyone. Our mission is to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities”

They have done some amazing work, including installing 8,177 solar powered systems and preventing over 646,191 tons of greenhouse gasses from being emitted into the atmosphere. 

Learn more about GRID Alternative’s work here: http://www.gridalternatives.org/

As an environmental club, EcoAction is so grateful to be partnering with GRID Alternatives this summer and throughout the school year!

For the next couple of months, members of EcoAction will attend training sessions at GRID Alternatives and cover topics such as solar system design, net metering policies, cultural perspectives, Native American energy issues, and learn hands-on solar installation skills such as conduit bending and tool usage.

The first training session with GRID Alternatives occurred on March 20th and was an insightful experience and exciting introduction for all of the interested club members. We carpooled (of course) down to GRID Alternatives’ main warehouse in Denver. Berlyn Huber, a GRID Staff member who has been incredibly supportive from the time we first discussed this potential partnership in January, immersed us in the unique experience that GRID was prepared to share with us.

We learned what exactly GRID does for communities with low access to electricity, the environmental importance of solar on the environment, and how much access to clean electricity is valued by Native Americans. To be able to tie together a passionate group of Hippie teenagers, an established environmental non-profit, and a reservation that cares deeply about the earth is a once in a lifetime connection that I am sure will spark a sense of community and deeper purpose in all involved.

By the end of the meeting, we (EcoAction) were very excited about the trip already and wanted summer to come even faster. Our next meeting will encompass the specifics of solar powered energy and the logistics of how we will be installing solar panels on a Reservation. We are blessed with the opportunity to make a positive change for both the environment and the people who deserve it the most.

Thank you to those who donated at our 2017 Songs for Solar Benefit Concert. Without your generous support, none of this would be possible. I can’t wait to share more about this journey with you as it unfolds!

Peace and Love,

Riley Weeks (EcoAction Club Member)

Click Below to discover more about our partner, GRID Alternatives:

http://www.gridalternatives.org/

Click Below to gain more insight on Pine Ridge Native American Reservation:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/10/life-pine-ridge-native-american-reservation-161031113119935.html

Songs for Solar

Welcome to Ecological Action! We are a club at Cherry Creek High School dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability through direct action. We focus on renewable energy  and education in our local community and around the globe. We believe that solar energy is a part of the solution to alleviating poverty and lessening our negative environmental impact.

With that mission in mind, we are pleased to announce our 2nd annual benefit concert Songs for Solar  that will take place February 3rd at Glenmoor Country Club from 7-9pm.

Proceeds from the event will be split between the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project (read blog posts about our solar installation experience below) and our solar panel installation Summer 2017 on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation.

Students at Cherry Creek passionate about human rights, the environment, and music are coming together to plan, market, and perform at this event, which we hope can make a sizable impact on the lives of others. Please come enjoy an evening of food, music, and a presentation by Ecological Action members. 

Tell your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors about our concert and contact us at songsforsolar@gmail.com

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Purchase tickets here!

Tickets are $35 for Students $70 for Adults and Company Tables are available for $1,000.

We are also hosting a silent auction and are accepting item donations!

Please explore our website for more information about our projects.

All the best,

Abigail Weeks

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Nyaka’s One By One Fundraiser on August 12th at 5pm

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Abbie Weeks and Lauren McMillen will share stories and observations of their recent journey to fundraise for, deliver and install solar panels for the Nyaka Vocational and Secondary School during this evening’s fundraiser for Nyaka in Vail, Colorado.

EcologicalAction club sponsor Jeff Boyce will also be honored!

Tickets may be purchased here.

“Saving Lives One by One.”

What the Future Holds

I have been back in the United States for two weeks now and have had time to reflect upon our whirlwind journey in Uganda.

First, I feel deep gratitude for the hundreds of people who have somehow been involved in this near year long process, from EcologicalAction’s first meeting of the 2015-2016 school year to the moment our plane’s wheels touched back on U.S. soil.

I never would have imagined that the club I started Sophomore year would find its way to Nyakagezi, Uganda. Believe me, I understand that if the universe were a tapestry, our project to install solar panels on two buildings of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project would be just a single, tiny thread. Yet that thread is interwoven with the lives and experiences and guidance of so many organizations and individuals: Nyaka staff both in Kampala and in the field, every student and teacher at Nyaka Secondary Vocational School, Cherry Creek High School Administration, attendees and musicians at our benefit concert, 7th Grade teachers and students at West Middle School who participated in the Nyaka Walk,  my supportive teacher and mentor Mr. Dufford, our families, 9News, EcoTech Institute, The Villager, and airport personnel as mentioned in a previous blog post. We are just a fragment of life’s greater tapestry, but we span continents.

Environmental Activism has slowly grown to engulf and inform my life. This experience, however, challenged my preconceived notions. My awe and wonder has always lain with the natural world and I deeply feel a desire, no responsibility, as a citizen of Earth, to halt and reverse our species’ degradation of our ecosystems and biodiversity.

Additionally, as a species we have an obligation to each other: to ensure the human rights of all are fulfilled. “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Sustainability and Human Rights are not disconnected entities.

My two passions, ecological sustainability and human rights advocacy, intersect in beautiful harmony; each has the potential to promote the fulfillment of the other. For instance, as the abundance of natural resources decreases, it is in the benefit of local communities to adopt sustainable practices which will ensure that they may continue to pave a livelihood. In seaside communities this may mean preventing overfishing by interspersing the diet with plants that thrive in the local climate. In Uganda, the introduction of solar panels directly benefits both the planet and people. Solar energy effectively and sustainably harnesses our greatest renewable resource: the sun. Simultaneously, solar panels installed at the Nyaka schools unlock the potential of an education by powering the computers and lights, all at a lower cost than the unreliable hydroelectric grid which runs much of Uganda.

Note:

Access to electricity in 2013 at national level in Uganda is very low with 15% (1991: 5.6%; 2006: 9%; 2010: 10%) but only 7% in rural areas.“)

Also:  http://endev.info/content/Uganda

Uganda and the United States seemingly fall on distant positions on the spectrum of country development. Indeed, driving through the outskirts of Kampala and the rural southwest portions of Uganda, economic disparity and meager living conditions abound. Subsistence farming remains a common occupation and clean water, reliable health care, and public education are elusive “luxuries”.  In contrast, the United States has a highly developed service economy and private sector along with a strong public education system. Every nation faces societal ills: disease, violence and poverty. In Uganda, however, such issues were impossible to overlook or hide. I was overwhelmed and, frankly, initially disheartened when I contemplated the plausibility of a process which would help every single citizen achieve a high quality of life.

How would our photovoltaic system on the roof of one school in one village leave more than a superficial scratch on the epidermis of systematic poverty? What about the family in Mbarara who unwittingly drinks giardia infested water each day, the man I saw outside Kampala who struggles to find food each day, the farmers who toil each day to feed their families?

Driving back to Entebbe after our time at Nyaka, I dug through my mind for the root of poverty and brainstormed fundamental solutions. Uganda is a developing nation. The basic and most effective ways of improving quality of life are healthcare and education. Health care increases body strength and lifespan. Equally importantly, education gives people a tool with which to understand and solve any challenges their communities face. An educated populace is well-equipped to elect representatives and officials and fundamentally alter the economic and social system through political channels. An educated populace may communicate and reflect the needs of the country. Furthermore, education is one path to self-discovery and internal contentment. My education has allowed me to uncover who I am. What a luxury it is for me to have the time, the resources, to chase my passions when for many education is out of reach.

Change trudges along through movements. I will not preach that this experience in Uganda will completely revolutionize Uganda’s education system or stop climate change. Fundamental forces such as capitalism, government and the will to survive will drag this country of 37 million into the upcoming decades. Yet now our solar panels are threads, too, woven into life’s tapestry. May the lights and computers spark a child’s fervor and add kindling to a greater movement of uninhibited joy and freedom in this world.

I learned a lot about myself this trip. I thrive in situations requiring problem solving and under intense stress. I like matooke but not nearly as much as g-nut sauce. But more importantly, adopting a defeatist attitude because a problem seems too overwhelming is direct neglect of our responsibility to nurture our neighbors, no matter how many time zones stand between us. Through environmental and humanitarian action, each of us can improve our piece of the world.

Reader, I cannot thank you enough. May you have found or keeping searching to find a purpose you dare to follow. The world needs more of you.

All the best wishes and all my gratitude,

Abigail Weeks

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Amy Weeks, Abigail Weeks, Lauren McMillen, Jeff Boyce and Amy Boyce