RISA Joins the Fight For Climate Justice

Isabella Todini, Reporter

“By choosing the path of indifference we are consciously giving up on the life, home and happiness of the future generations of this Earth.” St. Stephen’s junior Camille Wefers Bettink has been the leading force for climate action on campus, having taken a concept presented by Head of School Eric Mayer, and turned it into an impressive, action-oriented campaign, aiming to identify and reduce the amount of plastic being used at all RISA (Rome International School Association) schools by 2020.

The functioning of the campaign is simple: there are seven indicators against which each school is invited to evaluate their use of plastic. The indicators range from teacher engagement, to plastic in furniture and school supplies, to the plastic used in the school bar and cafeteria. The aim is to make each school and their respective community aware that their actions can and will be measured, and to provide them with an honest insight into their plastic usage and areas for improvement.


Wefers Bettink presented the campaign to the Heads of School of all the RISA schools in March, encouraging all present to consider the impact that they as individuals and as schools have on the environment and thus the power they hold to enact positive change. And unsurprisingly, she has been met with overwhelming support. Mayer affirms that “everyone agrees it’s a good idea”, but isolates some of the challenges that Wefers Bettink and the campaign may face on their path to the full reduction of plastic in RISA schools, such as the need to spend more money on sustainable materials, or to go without some ordinary commodities.

As with any ambitious and provocative campaign, it is likely that this project will encounter challenges. On a small scale, the campaign’s presence at school mirrors the perspective of many towards the School Strikes for Climate led by Greta Thunberg; the dedicated are young and are few, while the supporters prefer to stand on the sidelines and watch the attempts at change making. Reaching a wider audience is a challenge even for Thunberg and thus, as Wefers Bettink points out, “the biggest challenge up until now has been that of making people care”.


Getting people to care, and to manifest that drive and enthusiasm for the campaign into tangible actions, is crucial to the campaign’s success, and comes down to a choice to do something, a choice to prioritize the reduction of plastic. “We chose to care because all of us felt that the way we look at our planet has to change,” says Wefers Bettink, speaking for the students working with her on the campaign. Mayer, Raynor and Wefers Bettink agree that it will take conscious action on the part of the entire school community to really make a difference.


However, Wefers Bettink is ready to do go the extra mile to ensure that she is doing her part to distance herself from plastic. She attests that the path she has chosen is “the one with more small sacrifices to make, yet the greater satisfaction and better results to gain”. With this in mind, she and her like-minded peers are encouraging other students to learn more about their role in the fight for climate justice. Just a few weeks ago, members of the Green Council presented one of the seven indicators to the St. Stephen’s student body; student engagement. They put emphasis on the facts and statistics, doing their best to convince any skeptics that there was scientific evidence to support their cause. All of these efforts are not in vain, students discussed the campaign in the hallway after class and continue to share information amongst themselves about the reality of climate change, but there is still a ways to go.


“We hope to unite students, teachers, and staff in believing in this cause and in bringing about change”. The energy that Wefers Bettink and her Green Council peers have with regard to this campaign is inspiring, and they are, without a doubt, among the leaders of the Rome climate justice movement.