Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
Lidiya “Lida” Kilchenko is Nevada’s new “environmental youth ambassador.” The 17-year-old Advanced Technologies Academy junior will represent the state in Australia this summer and will work to make Nevada a cleaner, more energy- and water-efficient state upon her return.
Kilchenko was born in Russia and immigrated with her family to Nevada six years ago. She brings a skeptical mind and an international perspective to the voluntary post.
She was chosen from hundreds of ninth- to 11th-grade students who entered the Clark County School District’s environmental essay contest.
What exactly does an environmental youth ambassador do?
We get sent to a foreign country for about two weeks to learn about environmental issues there and to discuss those issues and strategies with teens and community leaders in that country. When you get back, you spend a year talking to people at home about what you learned and you try to make a change locally. I’ll be doing public service announcements and outreach, and I hope to talk to state and county leaders about improving the environment here.
What was your environmental essay about?
The assignment was to compare and contrast an environmental issue faced by both Australia and America. I wrote a four-page essay about groundwater depletion as a national and international problem.
As an ambassador, what will your platform be?
I would like to look at how we use water, and how to use it better. But I’m also very concerned about air pollution, erosion from development in the desert and recycling. Our recycling rate in Nevada is awful. There are too many recyclable things going into the landfill. The landfill isn’t going to last forever. Just in general, we need to use our resources better.
Water is a major issue for us in Southern Nevada, but it’s also a global issue. Australia, for example, faces a lot of the same problems we do with drought. It was a good choice for me personally because I already knew a lot about groundwater depletion because of a project I did a few years ago in the Science Olympiad club.
Do you think teenagers are as concerned about environmental problems as older generations are?
I think they’re maybe more aware than previous generations, but I don’t think they’re doing anything about it. My generation thinks there’s nothing it can do. They focus on things like the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico or the deforestation of the rain forests. But there are little things anybody can do: Pick up litter, don’t waste water, conserve electricity.
Do you consider yourself an environmentalist and do you plan to do something related to the environment as a career?
I don’t know about being an environmentalist. I’m skeptical about global warming, but I do know about pollution. There’s no ignoring the environmental destruction, deforestation and pollution going on all around the world. It doesn’t take a genius to realize you’re poisoning the planet. People can’t live like that. I don’t think I’ll use this experience in my future career, however. I want to be a pediatrician. I’m doing an internship in a pediatrician’s office this summer after I get back from Australia.