More than the 'iGen', Part 1

This blog post is written by Maggie Zeh, a senior at Rock Canyon High School that is working with Lotus as part of her senior career exploration coursework. Maggie is passionate about the environment and interested in pursuing a career in sustainability.

 Today’s youth is the generation predicted to face the worst effects of climate change. While people working professionally in the fields of sustainability and climate action are driving many efforts on this impending issue, there are extensive examples of children and teens around the world taking matters into their own hands. Our impact can be seen on a local, national, and global scale. Our generation has lots of passion regarding climate change, and with the older, more experienced population as mentors, much can be achieved. It is imperative for all age groups to work together to address environmental concerns.


School Actions Inspire Students

 Action can be seen even on a local scale. Many high schools have some form of Eco Clubs, where students who are passionate about sustainability meet to help their schools reduce their environmental impact. These clubs can help their schools effectively recycle, obtain grant money for larger projects, and inspire other students to get involved. My own high school has made great progress towards being more sustainable. In the past few years, our biggest accomplishments include switching all lights in our gymnasium to LED bulbs and tinting all of the windows to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning. Currently, we are working on a project to compost in the cafeteria during lunchtime. These actions may seem small, but their impact is extremely positive.

Many teens are also inspired in their schools after learning about climate change in the classroom. AP Environmental Science is a very popular course among my peers, and it has inspired many students to act on climate change. This class was one of the major reasons why I personally became passionate about the environment and have begun to explore a career in sustainability. The other big component that inspired my passion was a safari trip to South Africa. This was a great learning experience for me on initiatives that must be taken and why environmental action is so important.


This is Zero Hour


 In today’s day and age, many young people are inspired by the momentum of other movements, such as the #NeverAgain campaign and the Women’s March, which seems to be drawing larger and larger crowds every year. One of the most outstanding groups of youth who have been inspired to take meaningful action is united under their coalition named Zero Hour. Their founders, who are all high school students, met at a summer program at Princeton University and instantly bonded over their dissatisfaction regarding lawmaker’s current initiatives to address climate change. They were determined to do something big that adults could not ignore. Since their beginning, they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from people of all ages as well as various nonprofits group willing to sponsor their efforts. On the rainy day of July 21, 2018, hundreds of teens marched with Zero Hour on the National Mall to express their dedication to this cause. Their force was felt around the world as many sister marches also took place spanning from Denver to Kenya. They received lots of attention from the press, including the New York Times and even Teen Vogue. Zero Hour has made it clear that this was not a one-and-done production; they intend to continue speaking out until their platform has been satisfied.


Judicial Action

 Another driven group of young people have come together under the legal body Our Children’s Trust. These individuals are suing the federal government for allegedly violating their right to life, liberty, and prosperity. Their argument is that the government’s support for the fossil fuel industry is creating a future for younger generations that will put them in far worse situations than anyone has experienced before. Their ambitious demand includes a climate recovery plan that will bring the atmosphere down to 350 parts per million of carbon. Their belief is that young people currently have the most at stake because we will be the ones to witness any effects of climate change. This platform has inspired many young people from around the country to get involved and take a stand against climate change for the good of their own, and future, generations. The most recent court decision that has been made in this case is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ grant to the young plaintiffs’ motion to expedite briefing. This court case, Julianna v. United States, began in 2015. It has been a long journey with many obstacles, but in 2019 they are still making progress towards their goal.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog and Maggie’s further thoughts on how to engage youth in climate action.