The U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan (USGBC-WM) is proud to present Josh Gottlieb of Kalamazoo Public Schools with the 2019 Green School Champion Award. Over the past year, Josh and his students have worked to combat climate change within Kalamazoo and beyond. Josh, a physics teacher at Kalamazoo Central High School, continues to work in partnership with his passionate students to convey the urgency of climate change to the world. This fall, Kalamazoo Central High School declared a climate emergency and was the first high school in Michigan to do so. Beyond this, Josh and his students are working with Consumers Energy and USGBC-WM on an initiative to increase the efficiency of energy consumption at the Kalamazoo School District. They
plan to quantify the success of their efforts, then study the data to do even more. They are also in the midst of organizing a large-scale voter registration drive; the goal is to allow voters the opportunity to cast their ballot in the upcoming election.
It is evident that Josh is a passionate and hard-working educator. Even so, he is humble and wholly grateful for the strength and tenacity of his students. He comments on their ability to work in spite of their anger and dread of what is to come if patterns do not change. It is admirable that, even in the face of resistance, Josh continues to work every day to educate people on climate change impacts. He described the moment he knew that he must do something as a switch; although he had known about climate change for most of his life, his knowledge went from “intellectual to visceral”. It is a dreadful knowing which one feels in the pit of their stomach- a fear that Josh and his students work to eradicate for the children of our future. They have seen the fruits of their labor already and will continue to do so. Their attitude is wholly optimistic- they will continue to fight for themselves, the citizens of Kalamazoo and beyond.
In working toward becoming a zero-waste school, Gottlieb aims to make Kalamazoo Central High School a replicable model for schools across the nation. “You don’t need full support, you just need 1% to be convinced,'' said Josh, in regards to the goals of him and his students. Even more intricate ideas, such as the installation of a nuclear technology plant in Kalamazoo, or the creation of West Wing-style Netflix series about the possibilities of life within the next 30 years, were expressed with such pragmatism. “We aren’t doing this to be cute,'' stated Josh as he elaborated on his students’ plans for future efforts. Josh Gottlieb is on a mission, and while he and his students face resistance every day, they will stand in the face of it. This award serves to recognize the perseverance and selfless dedication that we admire.