One afternoon last week, the Mount Madonna School (MMS) fifth graders and a few of their parents walked – a bit awestruck – down a white marble staircase into seats of honor –second row, center stage – at the Steve Jobs Theater in Apple’s new headquarters at Apple Park in Cupertino. The students, along with teacher Jessica Cambell, were special guests, invited to attend a private event, a panel discussion entitled “Powerful Women for the Planet.”
The April 27 event was an opportunity for Apple to highlight the work being done by women across the environmental sector, and was one of several celebratory events it organized in honor of Earth Day. The MMS students were invited to attend, as word of their own class environmental action and education project – directed at helping humpback whales – caught the attention of Apple officials.
Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy & Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, moderated the discussion, which featured conservationist Alexandra Cousteau, actress Dia Mirza and Vien Truong, CEO of Green for All.
“We were very impressed to read about Mount Madonna School’s fifth grade environmental project,” said Nadine de Coteau, manager of external engagement for Apple’s Environmental Initiatives team. “Lisa is really focused on inspiring the next generation of environmentalists, and we think this would be an inspiring and educational event for the students.”
“This was an amazing experience for the students and an interesting panel,” said teacher Jessica Cambell. “The class was particularly excited about the environmental aspect of the event and even more excited about Apple as the host, as we are a pretty Apple-heavy class with making their environmental movie using iMovie.”
Alexandra Cousteau is the granddaughter of pioneering oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. She is an advocate for the conservation and the sustainable management of water in order to preserve a healthy planet. Her global initiatives seek to inspire and empower individuals to protect the oceans and ocean inhabitants, as well as the human communities that rely on freshwater resources.
Indian actress and environmentalist Dia Mirza is the United Nation Environment Goodwill Ambassador for India. In this role she works to share information on priority areas for India’s environmental efforts, including clean air, clean seas, wildlife protection and climate change.
Green For All is a nationwide, Bay Area-based nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental justice. As CEO, Vien Truong works to advance solutions that bring clean energy, green jobs, and opportunities to the poorest and most polluted communities in America. As one of the few environmental non-government organization CEOs of color, Truong brought a unique perspective to the conversation.
The panelists discussed technology and its impacts on the environment, economics – and the role of mothers and children – in solving the issues that threaten our planet’s ecosystems.
“Technology represents an opportunity to invest in the kind of future we want to end up in,” said Cousteau. “We want to focus on restoring abundance to our oceans and not just maintaining the status quo. We always end up going where we look, so we must keep our focus not on the ‘trees,’ but on where we want to go; that vision can guide us, our work and our efforts.”
Expanding on this, Mirza commented “information technology, and specifically, social media, has a very big role to play in mobilizing society. It’s made it much easier to get a lot of powerful information to people, particularly in developing countries where so much information is frequently withheld.”
“Technology means the future,” added Truong. “Right now the environment is couched in a partisan debate and it shouldn’t be. The fight is not how we’re leaving anyone behind, instead it’s about bringing everyone forward with the technology.”
Addressing the audience, which included elementary through college-age students, Apple employees, a Girl Scout troop and other guests, Truong said “Right now I’m talk to you, the children, you are not only our future, you are leading the way to positive change right now. We need to stop operating from our heads and start leading with our hearts and with love. The most powerful thing you can do as young leaders is to lead with your heart and not your head.”
Truong’s statement prompted fifth grader Cavan Smith to raise her hand and ask the panelists a question.
“We have a lot of environmental problems in the world, especially dirty air and dirty water,” said Smith. “What are you personally working on to help with this?”
Cousteau replied that she is focused on ocean health and reducing plastic pollution – two topics very near and dear to the hearts – and heads – of the MMS students.
Truong said she is working on climate justice and energy equity, and that she wants moms and kids to see themselves as superheroes for the environment. “I want to highlight and support our human resources as a way to change the world.”
Mirza summed it up and brought it together when she said, ‘besides clean air and clean seas, I want us to look at children as our present, not future, leaders.” It is children who will lead the way to a cleaner, more sustainable future. Our challenge is to remain focused on solutions and use that to inform our personal choices and actions every day.”
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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville