Climate Change Challenge Winners

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Congratulations to our SEVEN WINNERS of the YWP-Vermontivate Climate Change Writing Challenge! The writers were honored and awarded $50 each by Vermontivate (the community sustainability game -- check it out!) at a fantastic Earth Day Celebration on April 20 at Main Street Landing in Burlington. Thank you to all who participated in the challenge!

And the winners are...

Robin Chadwell, The Sharon Academy, Grade 9

Katie Ferguson, Crossett Brook Middle School, Duxbury, Grade 7

Taylor Garner, Mount Mansfield Union High School, Jericho, Grade 10

Cecilia Giordano, Big Picture South Burlington, Grade 11

Leah Kelleher, Albert D. Lawton Intermediate School, Essex Junction, Grade 8

Taylor Roucoulet, Otter Valley Union Middle School, Brandon, Grade 8

Margaret Slate, Peoples Academy, Morrisville, Grade 11

Thank you to all the writers who submitted responses to these prompts:

1. The year is 2050. Looking back, the climate crisis was solved in the most unexpected ways. You were there for a crucial moment. What happened?

2. Do you believe the world can solve the climate crisis? Tell us why.


The Green Campaign

By Robin Chadwell

Grade 9, The Sharon Academy

The idea was not neat and organized, but it was what the world needed at the time.

Gather by the thousands in the biggest cities around the world, and demand that every human being devote him or herself to what was then an impossible cause – saving the Earth from global warming.

Green shirts, pants, dresses, hats, and scarves filled street vendors across the globe, giving the fashion industries around the world no choice but to embrace the Green Campaign. But that was merely the beginning.

Famous musicians, actors, and athletes inspired their nations to rise to the challenge, and take the Green responsibility upon them.

Instead of playing video games and watching television, it became the new normal to see children outdoors, playing tag underneath water sprinklers that soaked gardens with health and beauty. It was a wonderful thing, knowing that we all wanted the same thing… a long and vigorous life on a healthy planet.

A new era was born through the love and happiness that resided in our hearts. I felt very lucky indeed, to know that I was not alone in my belief that humanity could be wonderful. It was an awakening to our potential, and the power we have to change the world.

I am quite certain, even with Alzheimer’s knocking on my door, that I will never forget the year that everything changed for the better. It was the year 2030 – two decades ago – when the Green Campaign began, and even though it has come to an end, green continues to be the world’s favorite color.

Just Imagine

By Katie Ferguson

Grade 7, Crossett Brook Middle School


Just imagine the world in all of its stages.
It’s been so different throughout the ages.
Imagine the good and imagine the bad.
Does this make you sad, happy, mad?

First imagine the forests and fields and life
that were here before we caused such strife.
Imagine the beauty of an untainted world,
a place where pollution is only a word.
There, animals roam and nature is free.
That world is as perfect as it will ever be.
There, life is good, not easy, but good.
How would you bring this world back if you could?

Just imagine the world in all of its stages.
It’s been so different throughout the ages.
Imagine the good and imagine the bad.
Does this make you sad, happy, mad?

Then imagine what the world will become
if we keep polluting, if we are so dumb.
It’ll become a bare wasteland if we don’t take a stand,
And we humans need all of this land.
Our world would be drab and full of decay,
with extinct animals and tides rising every day.
It would even be hard to get clean air.
I fervently hope that I never live there.

Just imagine the world in all of its stages.
It’s been so different throughout the ages.
Imagine the good and imagine the bad.
Does this make you sad, happy, mad?

Which world do you want? You know, you can choose
which world you get and which one you lose.
You can get a clean planet by lending a hand
to the world that is trying to take a stand.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the three first things.
Do these to help the planet grow wings
to fly away from smog, trouble and strife
and into a better way of life.

Is It Going To Be Us?

By Taylor Garner

Grade 10, Mount Mansfield Union High School

Is it going to be us?
That watches our planet die away?
To watch our oceans poisoned,
our valleys burned,
and my soul
left to deteriorate?

Is it going to be us?
That watches our mountains cut down,
our atmosphere, toxic,
and the rains turned black?

Is it going to be us?
That have to tell their grandkids
that our governments didn't help their planet
when it needed it the most?
That that’s the reason they wear gas masks to school,
and need to be inside during the acid rain storms?
That we murdered the planet?

Is it going to be us?

Atlantis: The Second World

By Cecilia Giordano

Grade 11, Big Picture South Burlington

I remember my grandmother telling me stories of the surface. When I was younger, without my own children, I would sit by her side, watching the fish swim past my biofield helmet, and listen to her talk for hours. She told me that Mother Earth had begun heating, and that it was irreversible. I remember not understanding why that was.

It didn’t make sense that my ancestors were incapable of reversing their mistakes, if they could create such wonderful technology. She explained to me that Homo sapiens had damaged our planet to the point of no return, because they were selfish, and had disconnected themselves from nature.

When my generation came along, the title of “human” began to mean different things than it once did. I remember looking at her toes and wondering if sometimes she felt unnatural down here. She belonged to the land and I, one of the first Homo ichthyoids, belonged to the sea. My toes were webbed to match my hands. At times I wished for gills, and other times I thought about cutting my webbings.

No matter how many times I asked her about the start of our new world, she’d always retell it. The story never changed, and when she’d come to the end, I’d ask her something about the beginning to make our time stretch on. She would tell me that Mother Earth had grown tired of human resilience, and put us to the test for the last time. She told me that Homo sapiens saw the change and damage escalating but let it worsen, they knew what would come of it, and before Earth could cleanse herself of the parasitic nature of humans, they found a route around her ways. They created the biofield helmets that allowed oxygen to be endlessly filtered from water, and made cities out of material that was insoluble and could not be corroded. She explained that the oceans we now inhabit rose and swallowed up all the land.

“Heat,” she’d say, “the heat was unbearable toward the end of the surface world.” Sweltering heat beat down on her back for days before the water came in such sweet relief. The time came, finally, where she, her husband, and her sisters had to brace themselves for the inevitable impact of water. She explained that there was a loud siren that went off to alert them of this, called a civil defense warning mechanism. They strapped themselves in, having practiced it many times before, sitting in complete fear of whether the technology would work, and of transforming their lives from the bottom up.

When I was old enough, she finally told me why only a little more than half of the land people survived. She told me many people committed suicide, or found themselves at ill timing when the warning alarm went off and the waves came crashing. I could never imagine my world being swallowed, being drowned, and replaced. I looked at her grey curls, and her frail body, how she moved with such little fluidity, and despite that, I loved her endlessly for her ever-present strength.

She would continue on, telling me how scientists were ebullient, because once the transition from land to water occurred, they were among the most needed parts of the new society. The human body recognized so strongly the demand for adaptation that evolution started to occur naturally. And so came the generation my mother lived in, and then mine, and now my children’s. My grandfather died long ago; he was the inventor of paper (made from seaweed) and pencil (made from precious coral). The one thing my grandmother would always say about him was that he loved her so much. Until the day she died I never quite understood what she meant.

There are only little complications with my world still in existence from her age. One happened to be that predators found their way through our city boundaries occasionally. A great white found me one day, on my way across town to visit my grandmother. I’d been taught in school from a young age how to avoid being damaged (or worse) by the bigger fish in the sea. I would say that it was helpful, but knowing the speed capabilities and mass of its body couldn’t ease the fear that shot through me when I saw my reflection in its teeth. I was so close to her home, had I been four feet closed I could’ve reached out to touch it. I was smashed into a bed of coral, rendering me unconscious, and the last thing I remember seeing was my grandmother, through a terribly large hole in my biofield helmet.

When I woke, weeks later, in lucidgenic stasis (a chamber that allows for rapid healing), my mother told me that my grandmother had passed. Before I could panic, she handed me a letter. It explained that my helmet had been damaged beyond repair. My grandmother wrote to me to explain the circumstance of her husband’s death and a problem in our society, kept very well under wraps. She told me that when the civil defense warning mechanism went off that she couldn’t strap herself into her designated chair fast enough, and when impact met her, her helmet was destroyed. Before the current could take her, her husband grabbed her and held her up against himself, watching her drown. He let go of her waist, holding her only by one wrist, and with his other hand detached the helmet from around his neck, and placed it, against her will, around hers instead. She fought so hard to unbuckle him, and get his body to whatever surface was left, but her sisters forced her to stop. He had gone, far beyond saving, and made his decision. Any terribly fast ascension to the water’s surface could cause nitrogen to be released into her bloodstream, and she would die too, so her sisters would not allow it. Her husband sacrificed himself so she and their unborn child could live. My grandmother explained to me that underwater the scientists hadn’t found a way to properly recreate the helmets’ design, and so they were being recycled. Very few knew that sad truth. For one to be born, one must die. Or in this case, for one to continue living, one must pass on.

My mother explained that they stabilized her, with old technology, some kind of mask that provided a stream of oxygen, long enough for her to write the letter. I always knew she loved me, but in that moment I finally understood how much.

Climate change ended her world, but it created mine. I dream that in years to come my children’s children may walk on land again one day. I hope they see the surface, and greet the sun. Until then I instill in my children, and they in theirs, the importance of the care we should take toward our environment. I am here to make sure they know how the act of selfishness and disregard can affect history endlessly. I am here, writing this, with the knowledge that few may read it or heed my words, but somebody has to take this role. Just as my grandmother did for me, just as I will do for my son, and he, his daughters.

The Global Help

By Leah Kelleher

Grade 8, Albert D. Lawton Intermediate School

We are selfish, energy-hogging creatures. Humans are contributing to the destruction of our Earth. We know that.

It is folly for people to believe climate change is a myth. From the factories that make our car parts to the production of potato chips, all of our companies use chemicals and materials that impact our Earth.

We need to accept the fact that our carelessness and recklessness is showing. The Earth is not going to last forever. Scientists know it, astronomers know it, we know it.

So why don’t we do anything about it? Human beings have a bad habit of waiting to do something until the last minute. Until it is too late. Many people, including scientists, do believe it is already too late.

I believe if we start now we can change the outcome. We can save our mother planet.

I know what you’re thinking: How? When humans wanted to reach the moon we got there. When we want to accomplish something or make a difference, we find a way to do it. If we want to heal our Earth we can. We need to have hope, not only in the future, but in ourselves.

We may be selfish, but we are also the smartest creature on this planet. That being said, that gives us the opportunity to protect the beauty around us.

We are not doing anything at the moment, but if we just started small, we could give this planet a chance. We can all fix climate change if we try. We all need to try because this is not a national issue with politics. This is a global issue with us.

Eternal Night

By Taylor Roucoulet

Grade 8, Otter Valley Union Middle School

Eyes wander around a broken world to find nothing but darkness.

I’m searching…What am I searching for?

I’m waiting...

What am I waiting for?

The whole world is at the edge of the cliff, and we’re stuck in the moment of suspense.

The air is too quiet,

The trees are silent,

No more whispers or lullabies from the wind,

The moon is holding up the sky, the sun won’t pull away the stars.

Why do the stars look so devious – like they are wise eyes full of secrets?

Catastrophe is building in our hearts.

The night is swallowing us whole, the darkness brings out our deepest fears, our darkest desires.

A poor man can’t be seen as he steals.

A wise man has watched his sanity run from his grasp on two feet of ignorance.

I want to set fire to the world, watch the flames leap and lick at the sky, I want the stars to melt on my tongue, so the sun may once again burn up the sky.

The night sky is heavy with thoughts; we all lie here with memories drenching us in regrets.

We never had the chance to kiss the sun goodbye.

We never had the chance to caress the clouds.

We never had the chance to taste the light blue spilling through the trees.

Night was beautiful. A time to rest and remember everything.

We had always had the sun to look forward to in the morning.

Morning...Is it morning now? Is this our morning cast in the shadows...are we being resented? Resented by the beautiful day-lit sky?

I see no smiles on these faces of the shunned.

We destroyed our Earth. We tore down its trees.

We filled the air with gasses.

We drenched the world in sins.

And now the world resents us, and has cast us in a forever shadow.

I’m dancing with my fears; they take my hand and guide me to a river.

Looking down, I see the reflection. She is dressed in midnight, and her eyes are full of hate.

Is this me?

Has the night pulled me from my grace, tore away my wings and set me on fire with darkness?

These angels surrounding me are sooted with sins, their white dresses have been torn, their halos shattered, and their wings stained with raven feathers.

What have we done?

A cruel smile rests in the moon’s lethal glare.

The sky looks as though it will devour our souls.

I can feel the stars pulling me in.

They want to taste my fears, they want to know my heart.

This was our doing, we destroyed ourselves, and the sky has placed us in the darkest of shadows.

This is our shunning.

This is our eternal night.

Stronger Than We Seem

By Margaret Slate

Grade 11, Peoples Academy

Sometimes the world is not as it should be,
And it’s something that we all can readily see.
We sit and sigh and cry about it all,
But none of us stand up to fight against the wall.
But that’s not really fair, because they do exist,
The ones that fight for our further existence.
Humans are stronger than we give them credit for,
And I believe that our strength can give us so much more.
I believe that we can change the world,
Speaking speeches and shouting words;
Though alone, it’s not enough to get us through.
What we really need is me and you.
Humans are incredible, expanding their lives,
They’ve outfitted Earth’s so that they can thrive.
Some say they’re greedy, I say they’re grand
But it’s not something that everyone can understand.
Our future isn’t about keeping the Earth the same,
But adapting for changes like the old ones that came.
We know the Earth shifts beneath our feet,
And its creatures are moving to an unknown beat,
But we really can tune in, you see,
Because technology expands exponentially.
So dear, please, don’t cry about it so,
Because all it takes is a seed to grow.
And the human race is made of seeds,
Handcrafted and designed to suit our needs.
They’re a lot braver than we’ve come to know,
And someday soon, I believe it’ll show.
Because the world is falling, that’s the truth,
But we can change it, me and you.

Good Job! Well Done!

Wow pretty impressive! I thought the details were amazing. I have only positive comments towards how well these poems are. They really show how dangerous Climate Change is, bringing people more aware to the importance of it. Keep up the good work!