Floods and droughts may be the "new normal" and sea levels may be rising faster than previously thought, but the younger generation isn't willing to accept these climate change consequences for their future. As the grownups duke it out in Washington, kids take action with visible results, proving they may be more capable than adults in fighting man-made climate change.
Over 200,000 young people nationwide from over 2,500 schools participated in the Green Your School Challenge, a program that encouraged students to create initiatives focused on recycling, energy, climate change and food issues in their schools. Last week, the "Top 10 Green Schools" were revealed: Millburn Senior High School, Chapel Hill High School, Durand Middle School, University of Central Florida, City Academy, Canyon Crest Academy, Boston Latin, Indian Springs School, Santa Barbara High School and Garden Grove High School.
Perhaps Congress would be more invested in climate change action if they celebrated "Recycling Spies Day," a Chapel Hill High School initiative where "spies" offered rewards to random people they spotted recycling. The school also installed motion-sensitive light switches in teachers' lounges and hosted an eco-carnival.
Many students go the extra mile to fight climate change because they are aware that it threatens their generation more than the previous ones. As a Boston Latin student said about his group's efforts, "We are the people that will have to live in the future, and we should be allowed a healthy and clean planet."
It should be noted that, clearly, this younger generation was not born aware of climate change challenges. The positive actions of kids should be attributed at least in part to their teachers and parents. That said, adults are also responsible for any misinformation provided to students. Patch reports that a California school board recently ordered a global warming class to include the "conservative view" on climate change, with Board member Jeffrey Barke telling Patch, "I believe my role in the board is to represent the conservative voice of the community and I'm not a big fan of global warming."
Last year the New York Times reported on a South Dakota resolution which called for the "balanced teaching of global warming in public schools," and stated that "Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life." While it is necessary for students to learn different opinions on various theories, man-made climate change is an accepted phenomenon in the great majority of the scientific community. As a USA Today piece recently stated, climate change skeptics should be regarded in the same fashion as birthers, "a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence."
Despite the occasional influence from a climate change skeptic, global warming concerns seem to have permeated the younger generation. Over the past few weeks, young people from 25 countries participated in the largest ever climate change youth march. Organized by iMatter, thousands of young activists attended marches across the globe. Alec Loorz, who founded the organization at age 13, said, "Young people will be affected most by decisions that are made today and yet we can't vote, and we don't have money to compete with lobbyists... We do, however, have the moral authority and the legal right to insist that our future be protected."
The organization iMatter also recently initiated legal and administrative action in every U.S. state to encourage "Climate Recovery Plans."
10-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is one of the Boulder County youths who, joined by WildEarth Guardians, is suing the State of Colorado for failing to protect the environment. Roske-Martinez previously told The Huffington Post, "We're doing this because our future's in jeopardy and they're not doing a thing... so we're telling them to shape up."
Opportunities are springing up across the globe for children and young adults to become involved in the fight to combat man-made climate change. The U.S. non-profit Cool the Earth, founded by parents in the San Francisco Bay Area concerned about the well-being of future generations, offers free environmental climate change assembly programs to schools and communities across the nation.
The program now runs in 100 U.S. schools, using a child-driven model to reach 75,000 kids and their families, and has so far reduced carbon emissions by 100 million pounds. Cool The Earth's Jenny Jedeikin told The Huffington Post, "We're funded to offer our program free to more communities; we just have to connect with people who are interested in taking action."
Perhaps today's youth will be the generation interested enough to take the actions needed to combat climate change.