My name is Benjamin Wong and I am a senior at Jericho High School on Long Island, New York. I’ve been environmentally-conscious since a very young age, when my mother would tell me to put my food scraps into the small compost bin located in our background next to the tomato plant. And today, I’ve become an active environmentalist always looking for opportunities to pursue green actions and to inspire others to do the same. As the current captain of my school’s Science Olympiad team and an avid reader of science topics, I’m always on the lookout for novel ways to create a more sustainable Earth, and understanding how we can mitigate global issues that we face in our developing world. In addition, I love immersing myself in nature, often going on weekend hikes in the woods of upstate New York with my family and just sitting outside and enjoying the sunlight when I come home from school. My teammates (Benjamin Yao, Robert Yu, and Rohan Reddy), all sophomores at our high school, have found their interests in science, technology, and engineering, but bonded over the difficulty to find good ways to apply their new skills and enthusiasm for these fields. Therefore, I decided to inspire my three teammates to join me in the Project Green Challenge this year to see how we may expand their scientific interests towards a more environmental and global viewpoint. Having listened to the many experiences of past PGC finalists at our schools and how they have changed themselves as well as the environment, all four of us were determined to see how we could create the multitude of impacts and changes that PGC enables one to make during the valuable journey. What inspired us the most from our PGC experience was having the ability, the opportunity, to motivate others, to begin their own pursuits, to take action to change the environment in a way that demonstrates that small individual actions can culminate into a growing, collective movement. Essentially, the greatest inspiration that we gained from this experience is that we can choose who we will be: to either follow in the footsteps of others or to lead others in our own movement that will contribute to the revitalization of our planet.
Monumental. Enlightening. Influential. Reflective. Together.
One of the most vivid and lasting memories of my PGC experience was the first time my team and I inspired a non-group member to take their own action. It was the first time I realized the weight of my actions and that in me changing the way others live, I was changing other’s environmental impact and mindset. On PGC Day 3, my peers asked me about my experience thus far, and I told them about how I had barely begun PGC yet was so energized to protect the environment. Many began to think of their own ways to contribute to the cause, while others even signed up for PGC. After starting a #foamfree movement, we began to see the ripple effect after other challenges (i.e. our non-GMO party and Van Cortlandt Park adventure). It was only until then, after inspiring others, that we truly completed each challenge.
I have learned over the past days of the dependence that I have upon the environment, and the incredible dependence the environment has on me. By learning about the many different ways in which I play a role, sometimes unknowingly, in writing out our planet’s future, I learned that my impact on the environment is a double-edged blade. I can either continue to live an unsustainable life, drain the planet of its resources, and destroy our biosphere, or change my habits for the better, but either way, my actions regarding the environment will eventually “mirror” back to me. For centuries, Earth has given us clean air, clean waters, plants, and animals. Mistreat our earth, and it will give us toxic air to breathe, dirty water to drink, barren plants, and animals which will no longer be of any help to us. Treat the Earth well, and we will receive an amount equal to what we gave. This all lies in my hands and in the hands of others. It is our decision, ultimately, over the future of our planet, and therefore ourselves.