Kids’ voices are getting heard — on climate change as well as guns
By Linda Pentz Gunter
The March For Our Lives is coming up — to take place in Washington, DC on March 24. Young people are making their voices heard. They are not stepping down or giving up on the gun issue. For them, it’s personal. This could be their generation’s civil rights movement. Like their predecessors, they are seizing their moment, with eloquence and determination.
Some young people feel this way about climate change as well. After all, it’s their future that is being destroyed. They, too, have found a way not only to speak out, but to be creative, innovative and original. They are getting things done.
The first time I saw filmmaker, author and environmentalist Lynne Cherry’s series of short films with kids working for a better world — Young Voices for the Planet — only one question popped into my head: Why aren’t these mandatory viewing in every school in the country? And not just mandatory viewing, part of the curriculum. And in every school — starting with kindergarten until graduation day.
As we despair, especially now, of our leaders and their hitherto sluggish and now outright counter-productive actions towards addressing climate change in time, these films show just how much power the young actually have. They just need to use it.
In one film, three nine-year old girls testify at their town hall to change a town law to allow solar panels on public buildings. They received unanimous support. In another, an 11-year old boy in Germany, motivated by the achievements of Wangari Maathai in planting 30 million trees in Africa, started an initiative when he was nine that saw more than a billion trees planted in his country and around the world. (But he couldn’t help admitting that once the tree planting was done, it was the tree-climbing of the mature, established trees, that was “the most fun part of the day!”)
In the clip above we learn about Alec Loorz, who at 12 realized he could educate kids about global warming after finding inspiration from Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. Using the popular i-theme, he developed a series of i-logos that demonstrated the effect of global warming in a way kids would relate to. He called the series, iMatter.
He also turned his attention to sea level rise. As a resident of Ventura, CA he was acutely aware of the threat to his coastline. (Ironically, in 2017 global warming-caused drought led to his city being consumed by deadly wild fires.) He organized the installation of poles on the beach with environmental messages as well as a marker that showed how far the beach would be under water if no action was taken in time. His project was called SLAP — Sea Level Awareness Project.
Alec founded Kids vs. Global Warming which is still running as iMatteryouth.org. At age 17, in 2011, he famously sued the U.S. government over global warming. He also traveled to Iceland, where a life-changing experience walking on a melting glacier confirmed his commitment to climate change.
Cherry’s series is inspirational and empowering for youth. Each film shows how, with a little initiative and a lot of determination, the young can take control of their future.
And then there is the power of music. One of Cherry’s more recent films features Pete Seeger, shortly before he died, and the Rivertown Kids, a small choir of children from the Hudson Valley, NY area with whom he worked. Together they found power with their voices, singing about civil rights, social justice, cleaning up the Hudson River, the dangers of nuclear energy, global warming and the power of one person to create community and make great changes in the world.
Although made a number of years ago now, Cherry’s films still need to be seen and they continue to inspire.