In recent decades, many elected officials, NGOs and activists have campaigned for environmental justice causes. Aside from small successes and slow-but-steady progress, we have been unsuccessful in implementing massive change efforts to combat against climate change, deforestation, destruction of biodiversity and the “trash” problem. Why? What is preventing us from eradicating these deadly, non-sustainable practices?
It is no doubt that many of those responsible for policy decisions, including constituent voters, in this country have a general concern for humankind; however, environmental reform demands a paradigm shift in our way of life -- one that many would not be willing to accept until the waters begin to rise.
But there is a group, traditionally absent from both the polls and organizational leadership, that shows unwavering concern for the treatment of the environment in this time of crisis -- our youth. For tomorrow’s adults, preventing climate change is not just a political topic or a cool bumper sticker to put on a car, it is a threat to their future existence!
Nearly five years ago, Alec Loorz, then 12 years old, was deeply disturbed by the current state of our world and founded Kids vs. Global Warming as a partnership with the Earth Island Institute. Now approaching high school graduation, this Ventura County native is organizing an international march of youth-led advocate groups that are ready to share their voice and concern about the future of this world. The iMatter Marchwill take place in May 2011. We had the unique opportunity of asking Alec, young activist and traveling speaker, a few questions about the march and his journey to becoming a nationally recognized environmental advocate:
- Have you always been so poised in presenting or has it been a tough time adjusting?
“Well thank you! It has kind of been both. I really like public speaking and I’ve learned a lot of things over the years. But I definitely didn’t know what I was doing when I first started. I remember the first speech I gave, I ended up being the keynote speaker almost by accident, and I rushed through it really fast, said “um” every three words and was very nervous (in an excited way). But I still enjoyed it, and I have enjoyed it ever since.
- Can you speak briefly about the story behind KVGW?
“It all started for me after seeing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” when I was 12 years old. I realized that climate change affects my generation more than anyone else and I felt I needed to let people know what is going on with our planet. Because our addiction to fossil fuels is messing up the perfect balance of nature and threatening the survival of my generation.”
- I love the iMatter campaign! How long has the project been going and what is the to-date progress to the 1 million strong objective? Is there still a pronounced need for regional leaders?
“First of all, YES, we need regional leaders! The iMatter March is an international event happening on Mother’s Day, May 8 of this year. Youth will stand together and march in our streets to let our leaders know that climate change is about us. It’s about the survival of this and every generation to come. There will be marches in states all across America and in cities all over the world, all organized by youth leaders who want their voices to be heard. We are not focusing on getting a certain number because we’d rather people actually listen to what our message is rather than just count how many people show up. We’re looking for regional organizers in every city we possibly can! Sign up a iMatterMarch.org.”
- What are you looking to accomplish with the march?
“Mainly, we are aiming to let the world know that climate change is a moral issue -- not a political issue or a financial issue. By standing up in the streets, the youth of this world will let the ruling generation know that we care about our future and we demand that our entire society lives as if our future matters. We are also working on a legal action, bringing our case to the courts and demanding that our government commit to reducing our Carbon Dioxide emissions 5% every year until we reach a level that is safe for future generations.”
- How much of an impact do you feel that the youth of this nation can have on immediate or near-future macro policy change?
“I feel that if we want to solve climate change before it’s too late, we need a revolution. And this revolution needs to be led by youth. We, as young people, will be affected more than anyone else by the consequences of climate change, some of which are already happening today. And we are some of the most creative, dedicated and passionate people on the planet. I think we have an inherent sense of calling about climate change and I think we can be the most powerful force in the world. We can do this. This is our time.”
- How do you manage your time between traveling school presentations, keynote addresses, advocacy and living the life a high school student?
“Well, it is a challenge. I’m now doing full time homeschool, and my work accounts for a lot of my education. But I’m still working on having a life outside of this work as well. I play and listen to music a lot, occasionally play my share of computer games and find time to hang out with friends when I get the chance.”
- Do you have any defined plans for after your you graduate?
“Well, I know that I want to go to college. I’m really interested in studying how people change and how cultures work, so I might study psychology or sociology. I’m also interested in graphic design and filmmaking and, of course, environmental science and policy. So there are a lot of things, but who knows? I only know what I’m doing now and that’s what matters to me. All I know is that I will be a climate change activist until what needs to be done is done, even if it takes my whole life.”
With passion and purpose, Alec is leading the charge to implement tangible action against climate change. He is also telling the world that young people have a unique and ever-important voice, one that has been historically overlooked. To join Alec in the iMatter March, visit iMatterMarch.org