Expressing climate concerns through essays

February 27, 2024

To quote Michael Grunwald, “The human race does a lot stupid things, but we’ve got a powerful incentive to save the only planet that has pizza and Yosemite and our children …” 

Powerful indeed. Protecting the health of this all-too-fragile planet and the diversity of life that inhabits it – especially our children – has been my life’s mission.

I served as executive director and then director of programs for Delaware Interfaith Power & Light. The mission is to engage faith communities and community partners in addressing the causes and consequences of climate change; to scientifically inform and spiritually deepen our understanding of our relationship with the natural world – and with each other – and to act on those understandings. One critical way to do that is to listen to those who will be most profoundly affected by an ailing planet.

And to that end, for the third year, DeIPL is providing an opportunity to hear directly from our visionary, pizza-loving children. 

RENEW – Reflective Essays on Nature, Earth and their Wonders – is an essay contest open to all high school students in Delaware. It is a platform for the students to reflect – in writing – on the unique role of youth on climate action, environmental justice and their intimate sense of connectedness with the natural world. 

As co-coordinator of this initiative, I have carefully read and reread every essay that has been submitted these past two years. I have been both shaken and inspired by their expressions of awe and grief, of compassion and outrage; by their calls for accountability and their empowered, hope-filled visions for the future.

A sampling: “From the tiniest microbes of a flea, to the largest of animals like a blue whale, all are linked in a complex network that is essential for the survival of life on Earth. My sense of connectedness to the natural world has inspired me to appreciate the intricacy and beauty of this big web of life, and has driven my motivation to protect it and spread appreciation.” – Julia Logue, Cape Henlopen High School.

“I watched the ventilator machine carefully whirr beside my cousin’s bed and realized how her health condition was a product of the polluted environment we created … I knew I could no longer idly ignore the crippling effects of humans on the natural environment.” – Danielle Waters, home-schooled.

“As we held up our signs and listened to our peers demand action, I became overwhelmed with a sense of relief and belonging. In that moment, our message became clear. The youth of our state is not going anywhere. We will continue to advocate for change and challenge our politicians until we are old enough to fill their seats.” – Julia Rial, Sussex Academy.

“It shouldn’t be controversial to want better for our planet … I aspire to leave this world for future generations, seeing that the beloved Earth I was born on is left clean, safe for new children, and safe for families to settle down and prosper for hundreds of years after I am gone. We need to start taking this world more seriously. - Alyssa Molock, Sussex Technical High School.

We need to hear these voices. We need to grasp what they’re telling us. And we had better be prepared to respond.

All high school students in Delaware are eligible to participate and asked to register through the DeIPL website, The essays must be original works, researched and crafted by the students, a maximum of 1,500 words on one of the three topics mentioned, and emailed by Monday, March 11, to

A diverse panel of judges reviews and scores the essays based on clarity, passion, attention to theme, creativity and effectiveness. 

DeIPL will offer 10 cash scholarship awards, totaling $8,000, to winning essayists.

We continually explore ways to recognize and showcase these young voices. Last year’s essayists were invited to appear on the floors of our state House and Senate on their last day in session when several environmental bills were passed and were given standing ovations. It was a thrill for them, an empowering one. The invitation has been extended again this year.

I know that as I read and reread this new set of impassioned pleas for our attention, my own fires will be refueled. We cannot be reminded often enough … they are depending on us.


  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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