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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Kids Speak Out

Air Date: Week of

Senator Barbara Boxer introduced Alec Loorz at this town hall meeting in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in April 2009.

From banning plastic bags to raising awareness about rising sea levels, kids are proving that they can be a powerful force in the battle against climate change. Author Lynne Cherry tells host Steve Curwood about several young leaders who are taking a stand to protect the planet. The kids are featured in her new documentary series, Young Voices on Climate Change.


CURWOOD: There are plenty of proposed laws and ongoing international negotiations trying to address rapid climate change, but for some kids the adults are moving way too slowly:


CURWOOD: One chronicler of the youth movement to fight climate disruption is Lynne Cherry, author of “How We Know What We Know About Climate Change.” She’s been interviewing young activists and recording them on video to give their voices a broader reach.

CHERRY: When kids speak out, it really gets to your heart. I’ve been showing these. They’re just three and a half minute shorts that we have right now, and people – they get tears in their eyes, they really get choked up, because they care about their kids and the kids are basically fighting for their future.

LOORZ: My name is Alec Loorz I’m thirteen years old. I’m in eighth grade, and I go to Ventura Charter School. I never knew about climate change at all until I saw Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Kids are the ones who will be most affected by global warming. By the time we’re middle aged, climate change will be a huge crisis if nothing is done today to help us.

Senator Barbara Boxer introduced Alec Loorz at this town hall meeting in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in April 2009.

CURWOOD: So tell me about Alec Loorz – what is he doing to make a difference about climate change?

CHERRY: Alec’s come up with several projects. One is his SLAP Project, Sea Level Awareness Project, and he’s been with his group, they’ve been putting sea level awareness posts all around Ventura, coast of Ventura, to show with each degree of warming where the sea level will be. Alec also has a Declaration of Independence from fossil fuel.

LOORZ: When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to rid themselves of an energy system that has been found to threaten their lives and liberties, it is only decent that they should declare the causes of separation from the usage of fossil fuels.

CHERRY: It’s gonna be on the website of the Alliance for Climate Education and it’s a sign on campaign. So kids all around the world will be able to sign this Declaration of Independence.

CURWOOD: Now there are a number of cities and towns around the country who have tried to ban plastic bags and in Santa Monica there’s a group of kids called Teen Marine who took up the issues themselves and well here’s a clip from one of them.

BOY: I, myself, as a teenager using reusable bags at the grocery store. I get looked at a lot because I’m a teenager, you know what I mean? Teenagers don’t really use reusable bags, you know. It’s not cool. But I mean I think it’s cool and definitely everyone can do it.

Alec Loorz, Lynne Cherry, and NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.

CURWOOD: So what other ideas have they come up with along with reusable bags to combat the use of plastic bags and how did they persuade the city to impose a ban?

CHERRY: Well Evelina in that same film says that fourteen plastic bags is the equivalent of driving one mile. And also they did research, they actually counted the number of plastic bags that they found on the beach, in trees, along roadsides. It was like collecting scientific data about the effects of trash on the ecosystem. And so they took this data, this study they did and they presented that.

CURWOOD: At some point in this I’m guessing you asked the kids why it is that it’s so hard for adults to get this.

CHERRY: The kids think that the adults just don’t want to change their ways, but they also realize that a lot of adults are limited by the amount of time they have in their day. And so the kids are taking it upon themselves. On of these kids, Shannon McComb, she’s says, “If you adults won’t do something about climate change, then we kids are going to take the reigns.” That really is the sentiment of most of these kids. Some of these kids say you adults don’t have that much time left on this planet, you know, we’re very old to them. They think that their whole future is ahead of them, and they really care very much about saving the earth for themselves and for their children.

CURWOOD: I don’t want to sound cynical, but, you know, typically teenagers don’t much care about the future. I mean if you tell them that their book report is due next week, they’ll say “oh yeah” and they’ll get on the skateboard or head off to the beach. Typically they’re in the now.

CHERRY: Well I think the reason that kids aren’t really doing anything is because they think they can’t. The messages that they get from the media is that there’s nothing you can do about this, this problem’s too big for anyone to solve. But once these kids start doing something, they find that action is the antidote to fear and demoralization. And they find that they’re succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. There’s one girl in the movie, Erica Fernandez, who was actually successful in organizing a thousand people in her community and stopping a liquefied natural gas plant from being built off the coast of Oxnard, California.

Erica Fernandez, from Mexico, had not been in the U.S. long when she helped organize her community against an LNG plant off the beach.

FERNANDEZ: Being involved in stopping this company, it gave to youth a lot of confidence. And I personally can say that it gave me the power to believe that I could make a difference.

CURWOOD: So there’s more to life than the video game.

CHERRY: Yeah, I think that these kinds of projects really do give the kids’ lives meaning. It’s really exciting for them to find that their voices are important. Like in the movie Alec says, “Kids have power. Kids can make a difference.”

CURWOOD: Lynne Cherry is an author, illustrator and environmental activist. Her movie shorts are playing right now at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. And for a link to her new website, you can go to ours at loe.org. Lynne, thanks so much.

CHERRY: Thank you, Steve.



Check out Lynne Cherry’s website

For more about citizen science and Lynne Cherry’s children’s book on global warming, click here.

Young Voices on Climate Change.


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