ISLESBORO — As a child growing up on Tilden Pond in Belmont, Julian Kelly said, his caring for the environment developed “before I realized it.” Having gone to school on Islesboro for the last eight years and lived there most of that time (his parents both practice law in Belfast, and he lives there in the winter), the high school junior has been actively involved in constructive responses to climate change for some time.

Recently he approached the Select Board about creating sustainable development goals for the town based on the SDGs adopted by the United Nations in 2015 with a target date of 2030. Development of SDGs for Islesboro is the project Julian chose as part of a program he attended earlier this summer.

Julian Kelly, a junior at Islesboro Central School, is passionate about reducing the effects of climate change. Courtesy of Julian Kelly

In July he went to the inaugural Harvard Chan C-Change Youth Summits on Climate Change, for which The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health joined forces with Putney Pre-College, an initiative of Putney Student Travel. Lectures were balanced with field-based learning, according to the Putney Pre-College website, and took place in academic buildings and outdoor settings around Boston.

Julian attended the first of two week-long sessions, titled “Confronting Climate Realities with Concrete Action.” He and 63 other students were housed in a dormitory at Massachusetts College of Art. He said the group was broken up into focus areas of nine to 20 students. Focus areas included topics such as community, policy and security, press and media, science and technology, or industry, the smallest group, which was Julian’s.

In addition to keynote speakers who addressed the group as a whole, each focus group had its own speakers, he said, as well as an instructor who led the group in discussions and activities. “It was really, really cool,” Julian said, to have as his instructor climate activist David Rodriguez, who grew up in Bogota, Colombia, and watched the oil companies destroy the natural habitat and resources, because he has been part of efforts to repair that damage in his home country and elsewhere in South America.

Students were invited to come up with a capstone project that would be completed in their home community after they returned from the summit. They presented the proposals for their projects to their focus group, and a few of the proposals were presented to the overall group.

Julian said he was inspired to help his town develop SDGs by a talk given by Dr. Aaron Bernstein, one of the speakers at the conference. When he came home from the summit, he was fired up and wanted to do something to make a difference where he lives. He sent an email to Town Administrator Janet Anderson, in which he talked about having attended the summit. While working on an idea for his capstone project, he said, “I realized the town of Islesboro most likely stands without a set of SDGs (sustainable development goals) for 2030.”

He included a list of “6 of the U.N.’s 17 SDGs that may most accurately apply to our community.” They are: zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, climate action, and life below water.

Involvement in environmental concerns at the town level is not new to Julian. He has been the student representative to the town’s Energy Committee since last school year, when he was researching whether Islesboro Central School could get a biodigester and ended up attending committee meetings. Speaking to The Journal Sept. 8, he said he planned to present his capstone project from the Youth Climate Summit to the committee Sept. 14, and will work with committee member Toby Martin on it.

The Select Board put him on its agenda for Sept. 2, but Julian was unaware of it and did not attend the meeting. He plans to go to the Sept. 16 meeting ready to talk about his ideas regarding SDGs for the town. He wants to make developing the goals a project for school credit and said his academic adviser, science teacher Haley Currie, has agreed to work with him on it, along with Martin. He plans to have the goals completed before he graduates from high school.

He said it is important for Islesboro to have a set of SDGs because a lot of research by many eminent scientists and others has shown that the U.N. goals offer a path to global sustainability.

Some examples of things the town could do to reduce the effects of climate change, he said, include exploring ways to reduce pollution from the ferry and testing the water table in more places and more often than it does now to ensure clean water for all residents and visitors. Select Board member Lauren Bruce told The Journal by email, “the Select Board is very interested in working with (Julian) on Islesboro sustainability projects.”

Julian is personally committed to reducing his own contribution to climate change. He has modified what he eats in the last few years so that he now eats a mostly vegan diet, tries to limit the number of non-durable goods he buys and to avoid over-consuming in general. And he wants to make combating climate change his life’s work.

“I plan on this being my career. I have not been able to think of a more valuable way to spend the rest of my life than working on climate mitigation in some way.”