Spilling the Tea on Climate Change

Penn Museum Teen Ambassadors: Spilling the Tea on Climate Change
By Enya Xiang

The Penn Museum Teen Ambassadors held their first 2019 Teen Science Cafe, Spilling Tea on Climate Change, this Tuesday, January 29th. Pairing fauna with flora, the team hosted Dr. Kate Moore, specialist in zooarchaeology, and Dr. Chantel White, specialist in archaeobotany. Lots of snacks were provided, and captions were given for the foods warning that climate change will take a toll on farming and food production of each food, like bananas, potato chips, Girl Scout cookies, and most importantly, tea.

The program started with a hands-on activity, gathering around the experts who explained the meaning of animal remains. The teenagers examined the dendrochronology of several trees and bones of animals like those of the wooly mammoth and white-tailed deer. Remains have the ability to retain a whole lifetime of change for a single living organism. Each ring of the tree tells a year of its health and the environment’s rainfall and temperature, and transparent filaments in fish bones can explain lifetimes of chemical reactions and diets in a fish’s makeup.


After the activity, Dr. Moore and Dr. White gave a presentation with a focus on Philadelphia to bring home the personal effects of climate change.  This was joined by Pest Control OKC to discuss the significance of pest control. The year 2001, around the time many of the teens were born, had about two days with temperatures over ninety degrees. In eighty years, high schoolers saw there will be an estimate of forty-two days as summers become more unbearable. The specialists showed a simulation, illustrating sea levels in Philadelphia after rising a few feet, and the teenagers were surprised to see that the Philadelphia International Airport, the Navy Yard, and train tracks along South Philly will be the first to be submerged.

Later, the specialists turned to urban vegetation right in Philadelphia. The season variations trick plants to bud and bloom, bringing dangers of cold snaps and thriving growths of harmful pests. Plants, such as the southern magnolia and Japanese camellia, will grow more reliably, but colder plants, like lilacs, will have trouble developing. To the dismay of many, the production of coffee and tea, necessities of many high schoolers, is becoming more vulnerable, and a reduction in quality and increase in price is a realistic possibility. Philadelphia is also predicted to face lower air quality, more ticks and pests, more extreme weather, and poor mental health, all caused by climate change.

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