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Young Activists

There have been many waves of environmental activism, each gaining a broader demographic as climate change becomes more apparent.

Because the Internet and other forms of electronic communication are accessible at a younger age, children not only have the means to express their views about the environment – their ideas are finally being heard and applied. As a result we are seeing more teen and kid activists, as well as young entrepreneurs of green ‘enterprise’. The following examples may illustrate why our youth make the best activists, as they are the inherit-ants of the current ecological mess.

We will begin with Alex Lin, who was only eleven when he began to tackle the problem of e-waste. Alex and his friends teamed up with a local recycling company to hold a recycling drive for e-waste. The drive would be used to collect the build-up of e-waste in Westerly, Rhode Island, Alex’s hometown.  After only a day, the e-waste collected from the recycling drive was enough to fill two eighteen-wheeler trucks – which it did.

Despite the success, Alex wasn’t content to stop there. He and his friends partnered with the same recycling company, which lead to the installation of a permanent recycling bin to collect the town’s e-waste. Alex then persuaded his school’s superintendent to add computer refurbishing to the school’s computer curriculum. After the school had restored and distributed over 300 computers, Alex’s team set up computer centers in Rhode Island, Mexico, Kenya, Cameron, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Still, he saw more room for improvement. In their quest to ban improper e-waste disposal, Alex and his team met up with local legislators and after reviewing a proposed e-waste legislation that had failed to pass in previous years, Alex’s team decided to draft a new, less complicated bill. After an entire spring spent lobbying, the bill was passed. Making Rhode Island the fourth state in the U.S. to pass a bill requiring proper disposal of e-waste.

Our next activist, Zanders Srodes, was also just eleven years old when he found his cause. After frequenting beaches in southwest Florida, Zanders became aware of the threats posed to sea turtles, specifically loggerhead and green turtles, due to commercial fishing and habitat loss. This inspired him to create an educational program that he could present to students. Teaching them the importance of wildlife protection. He did this by meeting with sea turtle biologists to gather the information needed for the presentation. He then armed himself with a projector full of slides from a nearby marine lab – and a homemade sea turtle costume as well. After perfecting the program, Zanders’s held assemblies and presentations for various schools throughout the Gulf Coast.

In addition to these educational appearances, Zanders wrote a children’s activity book to supply his audience with age appropriate material. Since publication, the book has been translated into four languages.  Books have also been freely distributed to over 100,000 children and adults worldwide.

Today’s youth has a better opportunity than ever before to leave a positive imprint on society. However, if we wish to see more success stories, we must continue to provide better information to students about our current ecological state. We also must remember to listen, so we can learn from children as well. Environmental change is a global issue that can only be alleviated with the collaboration of all generations.

Young Activist’s Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the World, Sharon J. Smith, Ten Speed Press, Copyright 2011

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