Students learn worldwide impact of climate change from Pulitzer Crisis reporting staff

George Steinmetz stands in front of a photo he took.
George Steinmetz stands in front of a photo he took while presenting at Lincoln High School.

By SFUSD Communications Office

The auditorium sat in hushed silence as aerial images of smoggy China, crowded Bangladesh and charred Santa Rosa, California, flashed across a screen on stage.

Students at Lincoln High School absorbed photos of the emerald green waters, the clogged streets and ports, the neighborhoods leveled by wildfires, the chemicals pumping from tanks into the atmosphere.

At the end of the presentation by Pulitzer Crisis reporting staff and The New York Times Magazine, student Jackie quickly asked: “How do you think we can help?”

Such a question is exactly why Pulitzer Center grantees Nathaniel Rich and George Steinmetz came to Lincoln on Sept. 12, 2018, to discuss their publication "Losing Earth," the epic climate change story that took over an entire issue of The New York Times Magazine.

Rich's reporting in "Losing Earth" documents the reasoning behind current climate change narrative and examines why climate change has been so difficult to overcome. Aerial photography by Steinmetz, taken over the past year, reveals some of the damage already done due to climate change, and what is at stake.

“What we’re seeing is a cumulative effect of everyone’s actions,” Steinmetz said in response to student Jackie’s question. “Think globally, act locally. Minimize your impact on the environment.”

The event was hosted by the school’s Green Academy, which is is part of SFUSD College & Career Pathways and teaches students to discover and implement new solutions to environmental issues through physics, engineering, design and green-clean technologies.

Sofia, a senior at Lincoln who’s in the Green Academy, agreed that making improvements to one’s own contribution to the environment is equally important to understanding other impacts.

“Here in the city we’re fighting against straws and littering, for example, but there’s also that bigger picture where climate change is affecting small communities who are separated from everyone,” Sofia explained.

Another student, Zev, who is enrolled in Lincoln’s Teaching Academy, is already thinking about the responsibility that will fall on him and his peers throughout their lives as they enter adulthood.

“We are the ones who are inheriting this planet, and we are the ones who are going to need to make the change,” Zev commented.

Green Academy teacher Valerie Ziegler said, “Educating young people about the role politicians play in our efforts to combat climate change is essential to motivating young people to get to the booth on Election Day. The photography in ‘Losing Earth’ provides a unique way to reach students and tell them the story of climate change in a different format.”

To learn more about “Losing Earth” and how you can help, visit these links:

"Losing Earth" on The New York Times website

The Pulitzer Center education resources for "Losing Earth," including:

Writing & Communications activities

Visual Arts and Visual Literacy activities

Social Action activities