Our Heroic Movement was Featured on the Front Page of the Seattle Weekly

On Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 the Seattle Weekly published Sara Bernard’s wonderful front page article on our Seattle chapter of Plant For The Planet! Read it online and also listen (via SoundCloud) to Ambassadors Joey and Grace discuss challenges they face in getting policymakers to take action on climate change, and the frustrations they feel. The text of the article is as follows:

It’s a Friday night at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, and Joey and Grace, ages 9 and 11—tiny, wiry, and ebony-haired—are tumbling over each other to tell me what they know about climate change. Their introduction to the concept is pretty difficult to pinpoint, though, since it’s always been there, “like all those other facts,” says Grace.

“It’s just, like, a regular thing,” adds Joey.

Still, for my benefit, the siblings cast their minds back to the old days, when they knew about climate change, but they didn’t know that much about it.

“We knew it was caused by people burning oil and gas, but we didn’t understand what it meant,” offers Grace.

“We didn’t know how it works, we didn’t understand the effects, we didn’t understand how fast it was happening,” Joey says at a rapid clip. “We thought it happened in, like, 150 years, the big effects?”

“Something like that,” says Grace.

But now they’re aware that “the big effects are already somewhat happening,” says Joey. “There’s natural global warming . . . but this isn’t natural.” And then, with some gravitas: “If we don’t make some big changes by 2020, it won’t matter how much we try to help after.”

They share their feelings about that.

“Frustration . . . anger.”

“Frustration . . . annoyance. And kind of like . . . nobody getting it!”

“And a little bit this desperate need, like, ‘We need to do something! Why won’t you understand that?! Whyyyy?!’ ”

We’re at the tail end of a monthly meeting of the Seattle chapter of Plant for the Planet, an international environmental club with 34,000 young members in 50 countries who have collectively planted more than 14.2 billion trees. There are snacks and games, as you’d expect at a kid meeting—muffins, cookies, carrot sticks, a swift round of hide and seek, some dashing about and shrieking and breathless laughter.

But mostly it’s quite serious. Moderated by the group’s 13-year-old president, Gabe Mandell, the young activists are celebrating the myriad climate wins of 2015—Shell is out of the Arctic! Obama vetoed Keystone XL!—and planning their next tree-planting workshops and retreats, as well as discussing the climate news of the day, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade agreement that could allow multinational corporations to skirt carbon policies.

These are the kids, aged 8 to 14, who’ve trained to become “Climate Justice Ambassadors”—the official title of every member of Plant for the Planet who participates in a day-long “Academy”—giving ebullient speeches to their peers at school and at climate events. They’ve shown up at Shell, Keystone, oil train, and Gates Divest protests; they’ve testified at climate conferences and hearings; they’ve urged the Seattle City Council to put warning labels on gas pumps. They’ve also spent time with Governor Jay Inslee and former Vice President Al Gore and been featured in the HBO documentary Saving My Tomorrow; they’ve planted 11,000 trees and started a state-level challenge to plant a billion. They’ve co-hosted workshops and trainings all over the Puget Sound area and inspired the creation of a Plant for the Planet chapter in Portland. They’re about 375 strong since their inception in early 2013, with a few dozen active members. And eight of them were plaintiffs in a highly publicized lawsuit petitioning the Washington State Department of Ecology to develop a carbon-emissions rule for the sake of their fundamental rights—a lawsuit that they almost won.

“A lot of the times when I hear bad things about [climate change], I start to cry, and I feel pretty depressed,” says Sierra Gersdorf-Duncan, an 11-year-old fifth-grader so gripped by the crisis of ocean acidification that she’s been interviewed for a Philippe Cousteau documentary on the topic. But that kind of climate despair, she says, in herself and others, is “what we need to change. We have to tell them, ‘You’re right, these terrible things are happening, but we can do something about it.’ ”

If you, like Sierra, are 11 today, you were born not long before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Then, nearly every year of your existence, the world has seen epic climate-related disasters: Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, massive flooding in Pakistan, Pacific islands slipping underwater, Alaskan villages toppling from coastal bluffs, endless drought in California, and catastrophic wildfires in Washington. Every year seems to surpass the last as the “hottest year on record”; 2015 just beat out 2014 for the highest global average temperatures ever recorded, and 15 of the planet’s 16 hottest years occurred after 2001.

Also, if you are 11, you were born just before the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which marked a sea change in public perception around the concept—in this country, anyway—making “global warming” and “climate change” household terms as well as the stuff of political debate. More recently, you saw one of the largest international summits ever convened on this or any topic, and President Obama has been making climate speeches almost since you could speak.

By some accounts, we are beyond predictions and have entered the age of climate consequences. The entire lifetime of today’s children falls into that age. In 2050, the year that some of the more dire climate scenarios could begin to unfold, an 11-year-old will be 45.

“It affects us personally,” says 9-year-old Joey. “Most grownups will not be around long enough to see the big, awful effects I was talking about. For us . . . we’ll be middle-aged. We’ll be fully alive and have to worry about it.”

The kids’ passion has made an impact on the local climate movement. Put onstage, they frequently pull grand, tearful statements—and sometimes actions—out of our elected officials.

“Everything stops when the kid opens their mouth,” says parent and activist Michael Foster, creator of Plant for the Planet in Seattle. He’s taken these kids to a slew of climate events, he says, and without fail, when the kids speak, adults listen. “Whoever is sitting on that panel, behind that table, doodling their notes on their pad . . . The pencils go down. They make eye contact. They are paralyzed, not breathing, until that kid finishes.”

Kids speaking up for themselves, for the planet they’ll inherit—it’s effective. 350 Seattle has been known to call these kids their “secret weapon.” But it’s not just some cheap ploy to fill out a climate agenda: The weapon works because the kids care, too.

Tim Deppe, a Climate Ambassador who just turned 10, says all the bad stuff he hears about climate change doesn’t make him sad. “Not sad, no,” he says. “Passionate.”

The journey to Plant for the Planet in Seattle began with a single Google search.

In late 2012, Foster trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps, and since his children were in fourth and sixth grade at the time, he figured he’d do a slide show for their science class. But the talk he’d prepared was pretty grim, and he wasn’t going to just slap on some sweet nothings at the end. “I cannot end a talk with, ‘But we’re gonna build a whole bunch of windmills, so you guys are going to be all right,’ ” he says. “That’s such a lie.”

So he plugged “children save the world” and “climate” into a Google search bar and the top hit was a video put together by a German wunderkind named Felix Finkbeiner, who at age 9 decided that the best way to get around the climate crisis was to plant trees. Today the 17-year-old has been named the 2015 “European of the Year” by Reader’s Digest, addressed the United Nations, and launched a global organization with the goal of planting a trillion trees by 2020. (There are about three trillion trees on the planet today, but we’re still losing an estimated 15 billion every year to agriculture and development.)

Planting trees: It’s a simple concept for kids to grasp, and it’s one possible solution to climate change, since forests are huge carbon banks—they absorb planet-warming CO2 while pumping out oxygen. It also gives children something to hold onto in the face of “all this gloom-and-doom Al Gore stuff,” Foster says. He folded Finkbeiner’s video and call to action into his science-class presentation, and it was a total hit. Kids cheered, teachers wiped their eyes. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ ” he recalls. “‘I’ve got to do this slide show more.’ ”

Foster has since presented to about ten thousand kids in Seattle, by his estimation, and gotten on the phone with Finkbeiner, who chastised him for not having started a Seattle chapter of Plant for the Planet sooner. He’s also been a major connector for climate activists working with kids, as well as for local politicians—he’s brought Mayor Ed Murray as well as House Speaker Frank Chopp and representative Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) to various Plant for the Planet events. His two daughters were also the named plaintiffs in Zoe & Stella Foster v. Washington Department of Ecology, the kids’ climate-change lawsuit. It was one of many state-level lawsuits filed by Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust—a way to force action on climate change through the courts by using a legal principle called the “public trust doctrine” (and a secret weapon called “children”). Getting on board with that, Foster says, was easy: He stumbled across an Our Children’s Trust video and recognized a Carkeek Park landmark behind Andrea Rodgers, one of the attorneys working on the cases, who, it turned out, lived in Seattle. He called her and said, “ ‘I need to talk to you.’ And she said, ‘Is this Michael Foster? I need to talk to you!’ It’s a pretty small network of climate activists working with kids around the country.”

The kids got their final day in King County court last November; they’d been petitioning the Department of Ecology to create a carbon-emissions rule based on the best available climate science since summer 2014. While they lost their case in the end, Judge Hollis Hill nevertheless created a legal precedent that thrilled climate activists: the idea that the Washington state constitution should in fact protect the atmosphere for future generations. According to Judge Hill’s ruling, the only reason she dismissed the kids’ case was because the Department of Ecology was already developing a similar rule. Notably, Ecology is developing that rule because Governor Jay Inslee ordered it to last summer—11 days after he spent 90 minutes listening to five of the kid plaintiffs asking him to do just that.

Meanwhile, Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), chair of the Energy, Environment, & Telecommunications Committee, has sponsored SB 6173, a bill that would overturn Ecology’s ability to make a carbon rule without the help of the legislature. The proposed rule, said Ericksen in a statement, “gives manufacturers a perverse incentive to leave the state of Washington.” The bill passed his committee and is now in the hands of the Rules Committee, which may send it to the Senate floor for a second reading.

“The problem is we’re fighting a propaganda war,” says 11-year-old Grace. “Who can get people to listen more—the oil corporations or people like us?”

She sighs, acknowledging that there are plenty of other problems in the world that she feels sympathetic to, but that we don’t have a spare planet on which to solve those problems. “Honestly, if we don’t do something about climate change now,” she says, “we’re not going to have a chance to worry about the rest of it.”

According to Michael Foster, climate change is a “time crime.” We’re stealing the future from our children by burning fossil fuels with abandon, and we won’t really know it—we won’t know quite how much we’ve stolen—for decades.

It is also, in his view, kind of like second-hand smoke. “I grew up in Texas at a time when everybody smoked everywhere,” he says. “I remember everywhere I went stank, and that’s just how it was. It was like sucking on a tailpipe, just cigars and whatever, all the time. And the idea that I could be a kid in a world of people who are just smoking around me, everywhere, all the time, and know what they’re doing to me? That’s crazy-making.”

That’s why he wants to create an infrastructure for these kids—give them a platform so that “grownups take them seriously, and so they’re not feeling so crazy and isolated and alone with the knowledge that they have.”

Sure, it’s often people like Foster who’ve put that knowledge in these kids’ heads in the first place, but they live in this world too, and they’re listening. 11-year-old Sierra is very, very worried about the ocean’s dying diatoms, for example, but explains that Plant for the Planet “gave me a thing to do about it. The effects [of climate change] are very depressing, but once you get involved, it doesn’t seem that hard because you have all these other people supporting you.”

While some of the kids are interested in science or enjoy being mini-celebrities—it is nice, as former Planet for the Planet president Wren Wagenbach told me, to have somebody “listening to you, for once”—they often have very strong emotional connections to the issue, too. Last summer, 12-year-old Jenny wrote Governor Inslee a letter describing her attachment to a lake and a waterfall in a forest in China: She’d go every year to visit family, but one year when she returned, the forest had been cut down and turned into oil-slicked pavement.

For Grace, it’s about compassion. “If someone’s upset or hurting or angry, it’s like it’s coming off them in waves and I feel it too,” she says. “But it’s not just people I’m actually in direct contact with . . . it’s like, every hurricane, every flood: It hurts.”

It’s not just guilt, then, that makes climate-caring adults lose themselves in the kids’ speeches. It’s also because they’re kids—so optimistic, so emotionally raw, so guileless. They put things in simple terms; they force us to interrogate our own assumptions; and they are utterly convinced that this is a problem we can fix.

Foster paraphrases a sentiment that he heard both Governor Inslee and Al Gore express at a fundraising luncheon in December 2014, following a three-minute call-to-action speech delivered by then-9-year-old Abby. “It’s not because we’re doing this for her,” he says, and he is crying now. His voice trembles. “It’s because she embodies the spirit of who we have to become.”

Adds Foster: “It’s speaking truth to power, and saying, ‘You need to be over here with me. You need to be a little more like me. You need to be a little more bold, a little more courageous. You have to do the impossible.’ ”

As I wrap up my conversation with Joey and Grace, Grace insists several times that I include one very important piece of information in this article. “We need funding,” she says. Planting trees, alas, isn’t free. But “it’s only one dollar per tree! It’s not much!” I promise to mention it. Parents grab their kids’ things, someone plays a riff on the piano, tiny hands grab extra cookies and tiny sneakers squeak as a dozen or so children skip off into the wet night.

Just outside the door, Gabe Mandell reels off some of the intricacies of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Do you want me to tell you the two worst things about it?” he asks, then launches into an explanation of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, which would allow corporations to sue governments over laws they find too restrictive in private trade tribunals, and if they establish the tiniest subsidiary in a country that has lax carbon or public-health laws, they can opt to abide by those laws, instead of the countries they do most of their business in.

He then takes care to remind me—although, at this moment, I’m quite convinced—that this is not just kid stuff.

People “look at us and they just see a bunch of kids planting trees, or whatever,” he says, exasperated. “I think we really need to get it out that we are an organization that is dedicated to fighting climate change! We’re doing things. We’re not just a bunch of kids getting together on a Friday. We’re a bunch of kids getting together and trying to do solutions that many grownups aren’t.”

Sara Bernard writes about environment and education, among other things, for Seattle Weekly. She can be reached at sbernard@seattleweekly.com or 206-467-4370. Follow her on Twitter at @saralacy.

Washington Court Recognizes Constitutional and Public Trust Duty to Protect the Atmosphere for Present and Future Generations

Attorney Andrea Rodgers, right, with some of the plaintiffs in a climate lawsuit before a meeting earlier this year with Gov. Jay Inslee. Photo Credit: Our Children’s Trust

From Our Children’s Trust on 11/20/2015:

Late last night, eight Washington youth received a groundbreaking ruling from Judge Hollis Hill in their climate change lawsuit. In this landmark decision, Judge Hill declared “[the youths’] survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming…before doing so becomes first too costly and then too late.

The court confirmed what the Washington petitioners and other young people we work with across the nation have been arguing in the courts, that “[t]he state has a constitutional obligation to protect the public’s interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people.”

Gabriel Mandell, a 13-year-old Washington petitioner reacts to Judge Hills decision:

“It’s incredible to have the court finally say that we do have a right to healthy atmosphere and that our government can’t allow it to be harmed. This ruling means that what the Department of Ecology does going forward in its rulemaking has to protect us, the kids of Washington, and not just us, but future generations too, like my children and those to come. Now they can’t decide to protect short-term economic fears and ignore us because we have constitutional and public trust rights to a stable climate!”

The court also validated the youths’ claims that the “scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of reduction mandated by Washington law. . . cannot ensure the survival of an environment in which [youth] can grow to adulthood safely.” The judge determined that the State has a “mandatory duty” to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations,” and found the state’s current standards to fail that standard dramatically for several reasons.

This Washington decision establishing constitutional public trust protections for the atmosphere, together with the decision earlier this year doing the same in New Mexico, evidences a wake-up by the judiciary that our collective right to a habitable future is at stake and must be protected by the courts before it is too late.

Read our full press release.
Thank you for your continued support and for enabling us to secure this important decision and more to come!

Victory for today’s young people and all living things to come. Now take action!

KING5 News Video

This time next week, Washington could become the first state in the union committed to walking the path back to 350 CO2 in our children’s lifetime. By Wednesday July 8th, the Department of Ecology must respond to the court in the historic victory, Zoe & Stella Foster v. Ecology.

Please contact Dept of Ecology and the Governor’s office today with congratulations and encouragement. This landmark ruling means Ecology under the Governor’s direction and judge’s order must exercise their sole authority to regulate and reduce carbon pollution “to protect our state’s resources and the children who depend on them.”

It’s a great day for Washington State once Ecology decides to do the right thing for our children. Call now and get your friends to call too!

Congratulations to everybody.

From Our Children’s Trust:

6-24-15
Dear Friends,

In a no-nonsense decision that calls out bureaucratic delay in the face of urgent and dire climate consequences, a judge in our Washington case just sided with the 8 youth petitioners, and ordered the state to reconsider its denial of the youth’s petition for emission reductions in accordance with current science. Please read the 4-page decision and press release.

Importantly, the judge ordered the state to consider the youth’s scientific evidence and to respond to the need to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to below 350 ppm by 2100.

The State must notify the court in two short weeks whether it will amend or affirm it’s denial of the youth’s petition in face of the court’s and the youth’s scientific evidence.

Congratulations to our youth petitioners of Plant for the Planet Academy and our outstanding WELC attorney leading the Washington case, Andrea Rodgers.

   To Our Children’s Trust,

or donate to “Climate Change for Families” near the bottom of the website, or to Plant-for-the-Planet.
Thank you!

Help get 2 USA Ambassadors to the Plant For The Planet international conference in Germany!

Climate Change For Families (Plant-for-the-Planet in Seattle, USA), a 501(c)(3) organization, needs your financial help to defer the $4,000 cost of the airplane tickets for Climate Justice Ambassadors 14-year old Aji & 14-year old Wren, along with their adult advisor Michael Foster, for their upcoming trip to Germany to participate in the May 17 to 25th International P4tP conference to finalize the Youth Climate Plan prior to the Paris December 2015 G7 summit. Yes, it is unusual for P4tP Seattle to take such a trip. But we’re now in “crunch time” to save Mother Earth, and it is extremely important that these Climate Justice Ambassadors attend and have input towards shaping/controlling their future. They are the only 2 Ambassadors representing North America at this conference. As Michael Foster says: “We’re only doing this to save the world!” Thank you for your generosity.
Climate Change For Families is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our tax ID number: 46-5636361
Donate now at http://bit.ly/1F8V2q8!

Plant for the Planet Stepping Up

By Gary Piazzon

Children of Plant for the Planet
Fighting For Their Future

They are everywhere: lobbying their representatives, participating in UU Voices presentations in Olympia, introducing Governor Inslee and other prominent officials, presenting to the Seattle City Council and of course, planting trees.  It is just getting started!  These children mean business.

We hosted our first Plant for the Planet academy on Whidbey Island Saturday, 3/28/15 and it was a great time. We certified 15 Climate Justice Ambassadors who join 300 in the USA and 340,000 worldwide. This international, UN sponsored program is just getting started in the US.  Like most other aspects pertinent to this über issue we in the USA have been late adopters.  Boo on us.

The children had an exciting day. They learned about the Climate/Ocean crisis, climate justice, how to speak in public, provide positive feedback to their peers and work together. The weather was wonderful. We planted 11 Garry Oaks in the luscious, dark chocolate earth, found lots of worms, a gorgeous garter snake, the bones of a deer, and petted the resident baby goats. We even celebrated a birthday! We now have the nucleus for a club and will be meeting monthly to strategize how best to get our message to the community and for another academy in the Fall.

You can see images of the event on the CREATe and Climate Change for Families websites.

The goals of PFTP are to:

  • Certify 1 million ambassadors
  • Plant 1 trillion trees
  • Keep fossil fuels in the ground
  • Promote global justice and equality

Why so many trees? Trees absorb CO2. Scientists at NASA have determined this is the number of trees needed to stabilize the climate. A trillion trees may seem like a lot. It amounts to 150 per person on the planet. Huge, but that is where we are. Even that is insufficient to get where we need to be. We must also decrease CO2 pollution by 6% per year. Economists agree that the best way to do that is to tax polluters, i.e. the coal, oil and natural gas industries and provide that money to people so they can make wise choices. So, let’s all “Stop Talking and Start Planting!” and get our legislators to pass a carbon tax like those that make the economies of Germany and British Columbia so strong.

Sources:

Planet for the Planet Seattle Explained:

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=4071325

The inspiring back story: Now We Children Save the World

Presentation to the Seattle City Council- PFTP (begins at about at about 45:00) http://www.seattlechannel.org/mayor-and-council/city-council/city-council-all-videos-index?videoid=x21710

Images from the Academy Saturday 10/25/14 with the Mayor Ed Murray:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/w1t9du8qyvmk86u/AADP2mplzkauRedr7OWF7iyja?dl=0

Introducing Governor Inslee:

https://climatechangeforfamilies.com/2014/12/19/abby-introduces-governor-inslee/

April 3, 2015, 3:20 pm

Citation

Piazzon, G. (2015). Plant for the Planet Stepping Up. Retrieved from http://www.nwuujn.org/view/article/551ee5e50cf24df50709ffc3

The Green Boat by Mary Pipher

 

Mary Pipher's new book is a wonderful description of the trauma, anxiety, joy and comfort of facing the impossible by coming together to take action against the odds.
Mary Pipher’s new book is a wonderful description of the trauma, anxiety, joy and comfort of facing the impossible by coming together to take action against the odds.

 

Living on Earth: Saving Ourselves- The Green Boat

Click on the link above to listen to “Living On Earth” radio interview with Mary Pipher, best-selling author of Reviving Ophelia, as she describes her inspiring journey into activism, and discusses her new book, The Green Boat, Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture. In her interviews, her actions, and in her book, she says it much better than I can, so check your speaker volume and tune in.

A grandmother herself, Mary Pipher turns her attention to the psychological roots of our difficulty in facing and addressing climate change, and to her own struggle against despair, trying to cope with the impending loss of everything we care for, which led her to take action in her community.

 

Now enjoy Video (below) of the Grandmothers Apple Pie Brigade, a group Mary Pipher helped found with her friends and neighbors to take on the Keystone XL pipeline when it came to her home in Nebraska. An unlikely group of activists comes together to spread a unifying vision of what makes home.

Vote for “MY World 2015” United Nations survey

MY World logoThe online survey captures the opinions of people around the world to find out what priorities should drive the international community beyond 2015, which is when we enact a new treaty on Global Development.

Choose your priorities from a list and tell our world leaders what kind of world you want to make!

Youth expresses her concern for the environment

DOWNLOAD 

Ta’Kaiya Blaney (Credit: Catherine Crouch)

reposted from United Nations Radio

Ta’Kaiya Blaney is a 12 year old from the Sliammon First Nation in Canada. Listen to her short interview for United Nations Radio here:

Ta’Kaiya, who is participating in this year’s session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 20 to 31 May, says our earth is our home.

She told the Forum that everyone needs to take steps towards a clean and healthy future regarding animals, humans, plants, and ecosystems.

Ta’Kaiya tells Gerry Adams about her concerns for the well-being of her community and her plans to solve some of the problems created by a treaty which she says discriminates against indigenous people.

Duration: 4’32”

Another One Bites the Dust as Coal Exporter Kills Terminal Plan

 The battle over coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest has shifted dramatically with the announcement on May 8 by Kinder Morgan that it would walk away from plans to build a massive coal export terminal near Clatskanie, Oregon, along the Columbia River.  

iMatter hands all block train
Children block the coal train at the waterfront tracks during the iMatter March on Earth Day. It’s working!

The announcement is sending shockwaves across the Northwest, where coal export companies have faced unprecedented opposition from local residents, business owners, public health professionals, elected officials, farmers, conservationists, and many others.

“There is a thin blue line separating Asian coal markets and the coal mines in Wyoming and Montana,” says Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club. “In these blue states of Washington, Oregon, and California there are tens of thousands of activists, an army of lawyers, and a growing number of elected officials who are ensuring that this line is never broken and coal exports never materialize. Mr. Buffett and others pushing these deadly coal exports: it is time to take your toys and go home. Accelerating climate disruption is not negotiable.”

Originally there were six proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, and now three are either dead (Grays Harbor, Washington and the Kinder Morgan’s St. Helens proposal in Oregon) or tabled (Coos Bay, Oregon).

The terminals, the coal barons’ last best chance to revive an industry dying in America, would enable the vast coal deposits of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to be shipped to Asia.

But climate change advocates have joined with Oregon and Washington residents concerned about coal dust and traffic tie-ups caused by mile-long trains.

15-year-old Petitions for Stronger Climate Change Science

“Climate change is the most pressing and threatening issue to modern-day society. Through lack of understanding from generations before us, we are having to fix it. And how can we do this without education?”

15 year old Esha Marhawa from West London wrote a petition to keep climate change in the national curriculum for children in England. She’s outraged that the newly proposed curriculum vastly scales back on teaching climate change.

“Geography… inspired me enough to realise that not only is the earth a beautiful place, but one that is in desperate need of our help. More importantly, it inspired me to get out there and do as much as I could.”

Her petition on the website change.org gets more signatures every hour. You can Sign the petition even if you don’t live in London or go to Hogwarts.

What are our standards for teaching climate change science in the U.S.A., anyway?

…Anybody? …Anybody?

In December, I offered my climate change slideshow to a 7th grade Science class. They were just wrapping up their unit on Climate, so the timing was Perfect. I started by asking students a rhetorical question, “Who here knows about climate change?” 3 hands went up out of 27 students.”Do you know about greenhouse gasses?” 2 hands went up. The teacher smiled politely. And that’s when it hit me.

It turns out “Climate” in our public schools is tornadoes, weather systems, earthquakes, and you know… “Climate.” “Change” is something else. I looked back at the students, my jaw on the floor.

Halfway through my talk I show a graph of today’s level of CO2. A 12 year old shot up out of his seat and shouted, “How long has this been happening? Why hasn’t anyone done anything about this?”

He was terrified and angry. And he was right to be. I assured him, “I’m getting to that now.” He sat down again quietly and the class listened for 45 minutes barely breathing. The end of the talk is an inspiring call to action using examples of youth leaders who are changing the world.

I asked the 7th graders to write down their immediate reaction to the new coal export terminal proposed for Cherry Point, WA. I took their written comments to the public hearing in Downtown Seattle that very night.

Michael Foster reads comments from 7th graders into the public record.

I shared their dismay, their horror, their sense of what is right and good in the public record. These 12-year-old kids who learned of global warming that day added their voices to the growing chorus demanding an end to the madness destroying their planet.

2,500 Washingtonians had crowded into the Convention Center to oppose the coal export terminal. The wildest, loudest cheers of the night ( in fact the only cheers permitted in the hall) shook the rafters as children spoke up courageously, with absolute moral authority, to teach us grownups what is right and good, and what is madness. You can watch the video online.

Back to Esha’s petition:

“Our government, part of the generation who bear much of the responsibility for this problem, intends to not only fail to act on climate change themselves but to obscure the truth from children and young people. It is outrageous that Michael Gove can even consider the elimination of climate change education for under-14s. We must keep climate change in the curriculum in order for young people to take on this challenge of tackling the threat posed by our changing climate.”

Meanwhile…

Here in the U.S., the fossil fuel friendly Heartland Institute “think tank”  has written new science curriculum. Video: Heartland Dept of Education

Kinda makes you want to start a petition doesn’t it?