Yolanda Wei ’26: At the Forefront of Youth Citizen Science

On December 6th, Yolanda Wei ’26 delivered a speech entitled Our Actions for Our Poles to COP28 UAE attendees.

For two nearly weeks in December, scientists, government leaders, captains of business and industry, global and regional NGO leadership, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and climate-change activists were among the 70,000 people gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference. The event marks the 28th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nation’s climate change accord. This year, a large youth delegation attended a range of events, including the youth-focused Pre-COP. Yolanda Wei ’26 was among the program participants.

“I have always been focused on environmental protection,” says Yolanda, whose initial fascination with polar animals—cultivated through documentaries—sparked her interest in the environment. To date, Yolanda has made three journeys to polar regions as a citizen scientist with research-driven expedition teams. What she learned along the way has shaped her passion, and moved her to act.

“I saw emaciated polar bears, some even perishing due to the diminishing ice floes. The landscape also bore the scars of rising sea temperatures, with extensive areas of sheath plants,” Yolanda recalls. “The diminishing sea area is affecting penguins' ability to feed on krill. This experience led me to the realization that the environmental impact has now penetrated the last pristine expanse on Earth. Realizing the urgency of environmental protection, I know that I need to take some actions.”

Through her experiences, Yolanda learned about many organizations working to impact the environment, including the Peaceland Foundation, an international non-profit organization that offers long-term educational programs addressing global humanitarian crises and environmental challenges, providing an opportunity for youth representatives to get involved. One of those opportunities: A chance to attend COP28. Yolanda applied, and was chosen to travel to UAE as a global youth representative.

“At COP28 I encountered a diverse group of individuals, including numerous youth representatives, each with their unique advocacies and projects,” says Yolanda. “It was inspiring to witness the determination and efforts of people from all walks of life, all committed to combating climate change. While youth representatives form a small segment of the population, every young individual holds the power to contribute to climate change mitigation. I proudly carried the Taft School flag at the conference, symbolizing Taft's commitment to addressing climate change issues."

On December 6th, Yolanda delivered a speech entitled Our Actions for Our Poles to COP28 attendees.

“Drawing from my three trips to the polar regions and numerous scientific research projects, I urged everyone to pay attention to climate change,” Yolanda explains. “I believe that young people should have rich and formal knowledge about this, the defining issue of our time. Scientific research is one of the significant contributions young people can make to stop global warming.”

At the conference, Yolanda announced that her next research focus will be clean energy, and also launched two environmental projects.

“Both projects will draw on my polar-related knowledge and experience. One is making science popularization cards; the other is an energy-saving calendar, which I plan to post on various media platforms,” Yolanda explains. “I am hoping that these projects will draw more attention to climate change and encourage people to take action.”


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