EDITOR’S NOTE: To celebrate The Nature Conservancy’s summer focus on “Kids in Nature,” Planet Change is highlighting a youth-action movement launched by 16-year-old Alec Loorz of Ventura, California.
With climate change policies stalled in the U.S. and inching forward at the global level, it may fall to those who will inherit the planet to take a stand.
A 16-year-old from Ventura, California, Alec Loorz, has taken up this challenge, forming the non-profit Kids vs Global Warming when he was 12. Working over the past 18 months, Alec and a corps of fellow youth activists have built the iMatter March movement, with more than 100 climate rallies planned in the U.S. and around the world from tomorrow through May 14.
Some of the bigger events, including a youth march in San Francisco and dozens of other locations, are planned for this Sunday, May 8, Mother’s Day in the U.S., while others will take place in coming months in places like India, Egypt, Iraq and Japan.
As he trained himself to be an ambassador for climate change action, Alec has been inspiring young people to get involved and perhaps reminding his elders to look beyond their own interests. Check out the video above to get inspired yourself!
I talked with Alec by phone Thursday, an interview arranged by his mom, Victoria Loorz, co-director of Kids vs Global Warming. She has taken on media coordination as press interest builds toward the marches. An impressive array of environmental organizations, foundations and sponsors are supporting iMatter.
Alec says his motivation “started four years ago when I was 12.”
He was resistant at first, but after his mom persuaded him to watch Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” an activist was born. “I was completely blown away. I watched the whole film like twice in a row,” Alec says. “I felt a deep sense of calling. I felt angry this was happening to our planet.”
After getting in an argument with a friend who didn’t believe global warming was caused by people (and the burning of fossil fuels), Alec said he decided he needed to learn everything he possibly could about climate change, and started “staying up ’til 2 a.m. reading scientific reports.”
He was soon turned down by Gore’s Climate Project speaker training because he was too young (still 12). But Alec didn’t give up. He made his own presentation from scratch and began talking to whoever would listen. He says he’s been invited to speak to more than 250,000 people around the country. He finally did get to meet Gore, when the former vice president invited him on stage at a San Diego event to ask a question about youth involvement.
Alec says the goal of the iMatter March is to build a massive movement of young people with the passion and the power to make “the ruling generation” take climate change seriously.
“As long as 20 people show up, I’ll consider that a success,” Alec says, of the San Francisco march, because those people may, in turn, become motivated. “This is my passion. Everyone blows off my generation. I may be naïve, but I know something is happening to our planet. I care about this.”
So, will Congress take notice? Or more importantly, take action?
If politicians don’t listen, Kids vs Global Warming, a project of Earth Island Institute, which was founded by environmentalist David Brower, is simultaneously pursuing another strategy – suing the government under the public trust doctrine for failing to protect the atmosphere for unborn generations.
Lawsuits were recently filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco naming Alec and other youth as plaintiffs, and demanding the government recognize the atmosphere as a commons needing protection and commit to a plan to return emissions to safe levels. By the time today’s teens can vote, they argue, it may be too late to halt runaway climate change.
“It’s not about money, power or convenience. It’s about survival,” Alec Loorz says. “It’s a moral issue and it involves all your children.”
There may be hope yet …
This post originally appeared on Planet Change on May 6 before Mother’s Day iMatter youth marches were held around the U.S. and the world. Check out the iMatter March home page to see a photo gallery of kids participating in climate change marches around the globe – from Cleveland, Ohio to Chiapas, Mexico – and learn about more events being planned this summer. Quoting Thomas Jefferson: “Every generation needs a new revolution,” and the iMatter site declares that, “This is ours.”
Lisa Hayden is a blogger and feature writer for The Nature Conservancy
Photo courtesy: iMatter March (Youth climate activist Alec Loorz)
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