I was born and raised in a cosmopolitan city in southern India three and half decades ago. In my younger days, there was a lot of time to simply “pass” and find fun things to do. This changed in high school when I discovered all the social problems that could use my attention. I thought about this awakening as I sat with a group of high school students on the Center’s Youth Advisory Board at a planning meeting last week. This group of teens is already committed to making the world a better place by addressing climate change issues. They were busy planning the Center’s fifth annual youth conference called Green Teen coming up on Thursday, November 9th, 2017.
The meeting turned into a healthy debate about the allocation of funds raised from the Green Teen conference. In the weeks before the wildfires in Sonoma County, the general thought was that the funds could go towards disaster relief in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria. When disaster hit so close to home, they revisited this decision. Students discussed issues of social equity, extent of the damage, local relevance, and extent of monetary support. They determined that the funds raised would go towards a local cause. We couldn’t have been prouder of our young leaders who were devoting their time, energy, and intellect to addressing such critical issues through a meaningful discussion.
I worked with the Center’s ECO2schools program about seven years ago and was always amazed to meet so many high school students who cared deeply for the environment. They were passionate about motivating their peers to join them in implementing the youth transportation project. I return to this program now with the added perspective of a parent of two little school-going children. There has never been a more critical time to engage the next generation in understanding the interconnectedness of the environment and human life.
One morning recently as I walked my son to school, I saw my dear friend who had lost her home to the fires. She came in on a new tandem bicycle towing her two little ones with her first grader riding alongside! Despite her recent losses, she chose to pursue a climate solution that is often not the most convenient. That gave me hope that we can rise back up as a community from this disaster and seize the opportunity to re-engage in important conversations around climate change.
I encourage youth across Sonoma County high schools to participate in the upcoming Green Teen gathering on November 9th (Thursday) from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. Youth have been on the frontline many social movements in recent decades and climate solutions are no different. I hope many teens will take this opportunity to learn and share more about topics such as air quality, renewable energy, waste stream management, veganism, transportation, ocean acidification, local economies, and much more. What’s even better is that teens get to do this in a youth-organized, youth-led local gathering with plenty of fun to be had!