We Are Houseguests on This Earth and We've Been Very Messy

Can you imagine a world without birds chirping and flying overhead? Or an ocean without sea turtles gliding along? Or coral reefs that turn grey and die? When we talk about quality of life, the benefits of our natural habitat are immeasurable for animals and humans alike.

When I first heard about the oil spill, I was devastated. I grew up visiting the Gulf of Mexico's pristine beaches, spotting birds and feeding the dolphins. I knew it was nesting season, and that danger was ahead especially for the brown pelicans who had just come off the endangered species list. The oil spill ruined the quality of life for thousands of birds, animals, and people who live along the Gulf coast. I knew I had to do something -- I couldn't just sit there. So, I started my fundraiser, eventually raising $200,000 for Gulf recovery.

The oil spill is just one example of habitat loss. Every day, the survival of animal and plant species is threatened due to the actions of humans. We are houseguests on this earth and we've been very messy. Now it's time to clean up, not only for the animals, not only for ourselves, but for the future generations whose quality of life depends on our actions today. It's the only planet we've got. We need to come up with energy solutions that think beyond today, or tomorrow, or even twenty years from now. As stewards of the earth, we are entrusted with protecting it and using its resources wisely. We should think of ways to leave the earth in a better state than how we found it.

My little brother Jackson was looking at an untouched forest recently and asked if houses could be built on it. When he heard that they could, he asked, "But where are the bears and the birds going to go?" Habitat loss doesn't have to be an inevitability. This Earth Day, our country should commit to not only protecting current habitat, but also restoring those that we have polluted. It can be done. By connecting tracks of land between national refuges, we can make wildlife corridors, maximizing the roaming area for animals that need open space. By curtailing pesticide use, we can reduce chemicals found in our marshes, streams and oceans. And by working together, our nation can become a leader in conservation.

When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, the use of DDT was widespread and the loss of the bald eagle as a species was imminent. But it wasn't too late. By changing our behavior and banning dangerous chemicals, the combined conservation efforts worked and eagles proudly fly today.

Protecting the environment isn't about stopping progress. We just need to put the eco back into our economy. There are huge opportunities in renewable resources. I mean, have you ever heard of a solar spill? By investing in alternative energy, we are investing in our economy and our habitat. I may only be 12, but it sounds good to me.

Every one of us has a great gift we can use to help the earth. Everyone, at any age, can do something, whether it is picking up trash along the side of the road, filling a bird feeder, or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. For me, I used my artwork. In the tradition of John James Audubon, painting the magnificent beauty of these winged creatures was my way of giving them a voice -- telling people that birds are worth saving. caterpillars to cancer, find your cause and use your talents. The quality of our world is counting on you.