Before we showcase a new wave of young environmentalists, we are taking a look back at some of the incredible activists that we have highlighted in the past. Click on the links below for information on these young environmentalists who are working on a variety of exciting projects.
For information on some of the young activists and youth-focused organizations we have highlighted in the past, check out this set of blog posts!
Tell us: who should we highlight this month?
Did you know that ivory trades at $1,000 (USD) per pound? It’s a high fee for a small part of the majestic animals that roam sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. That money also drives the increased killing of thousands of elephants, making the equation on saving elephants easy to understand.
“If the buying stops, the killing can too,” says Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.
Dr. Douglas-Hamilton, who was recently in Washington, D.C., to brief people about the ongoing elephant crisis, spoke with us about the importance of elephants and ways to save them – and you don’t have to live in a country with elephants to make a difference.
“The average person can help save elephants by knowing what’s happening with them,” says Douglas-Hamilton. “Elephants are really threatened by the ivory trade. So never buy or sell ivory.”
Elephants are also getting a boost from U.S. President Barack Obama, who recently toured Africa, where he promised to help countries curb the threat of illegal wildlife trade — and did. President Obama followed up on his word by issuing an executive order and pledging millions of dollars to put it into action. As noted in White House press comments and reported by SustainableBusiness.com, this order includes:
- $10 million across various U.S. agencies to improve protection for threatened wildlife populations in key African countries;
- A presidential task force on wildlife trafficking to develop a national strategy within six months to fight wildlife crime, led by the Secretaries of State and Treasury and the U.S. attorney general;
- A review of the U.S. federal government’s transnational organized crime strategy to consider adding wildlife trafficking to the list of crimes it covers, elevating it to the same level as arms, drug and human trafficking.
There are many reasons why saving elephants is important, such as their impact on the environments they live in, like creating waterholes in a drought that other animals can use too. According to Douglas-Hamilton, it is the similarities to ourselves and the similar values we share with elephants that are also key.
“Elephants are important to us because they are part of our world,” says Douglas-Hamilton. “They are important, intelligent mammals. They share the same life span as us, … They show qualities we admire in ourselves. They have compassion. And in times of difficulty, danger or stress, they stick together. So, for all of those reasons, they deserve our respect.”
Don’t you agree?
We recently had the privilege of meeting Ugochi Anyaka, an award-winning environmental journalist from Nigeria. Ugochi was in Washington, D.C., visiting the U.S. Department of State, where she spoke with us about why she’s passionate about the planet and fighting pollution. She also shared a message for young people.
How did you get into environmental journalism?
“I’ve always been passionate about the environment and pollution. I remember, as a child, I would always ask my mom, ‘What happens when we burn waste?’ Because, at the time, it was popular to burn your waste. And she said, ‘It just goes up.’ And I was like, ‘Where?’ and she said, ‘It just goes up and stays there.’
“When I grew up, I realized she didn’t tell me the truth — or maybe she didn’t know what happens with what we burn and the waste that we produce, so that got me interested in finding out what happens.
“Also as a child, I always puked when I got into a vehicle with lots of smoke in it. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I would just throw up in the vehicle. As I grew older, I realized what it was: I just didn’t like pollution.”
You recently won an environmental journalism award. Can you tell us more about it?
“I won the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Young Environmental Journalist Award. The award seeks to appreciate young journalists who work on environmental issues in Africa.
“I did a story on how a young man in the Papi community in Abuja is converting waste paper into briquettes to produce energy for cooking. I told the story about what he does, and how he is saving energy instead of cutting more firewood and isn’t wasting paper by turning it into briquettes.
“Amazingly, it won the award and I was proud to be called. It was a special day for me. I was excited, but I didn’t believe it until I got the email.”
How did you get your start?
“After university in Nigeria, you have to go for a one-year service to the nation and I had my compulsory National Youth Service with Aso Radio Abuja. During my radio days, I started talking about environmental issues and climate change, and then I started a show called ‘Green Angle.’
“From there on, I won a fellowship for the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) and had the opportunity to cover the COP16 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Cancun, Mexico through the support of the CCMP. That’s how I learned to tell better stories.
“I also won the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) African Radio Contest in 2011, that took me to Durbin, and that is how I started.”
What message would you like to share with today’s youth?
“I would love young people to study the environment and talking about the changes that they want to make. There’s an adage that goes, ‘We do not inherit the planet from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children.’
“The young people are the owners of the planet now. So it’s up to every young person to pick up your cameras, your phones, whatever you have and talk about the environment. Let’s protect our planet.”
During her visit to the U.S., Ugochi also shared her green experiences and encounters on the UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award blog at: http://goo.gl/B8lcF.
In addition to her radio shows, Ugochi also has her own blog, Eco Nigeria, where she writes on environmental issues, climate change and sustainable living.
For our last post on young environmental heroes this month, we would like to celebrate the winners of Action For Nature’s 2012 International Young Eco-Hero Awards. These awards “recognize young people 8 to 16 years old for their environmental achievements.” The organization says they “hope the accomplishments of these outstanding young people will inspire many others to preserve and protect the Earth upon which all life depends.”
There are winners from all over the world, including South Africa, India, the United
States, Rwanda, and Canada. Here is a look at some of the winners, but you can see the full list here.
Maria Clarisse Nyirabahire, a 14 year old from Rwanda, noticed that certain farmers were diverting water away from farmland in her village, which meant the villagers did not have enough water to grow crops. To address this problem, Maria started a dance troop and began working with other non-profits to raise almost $1,700! This money was writing my essay used to purchase equipment so that water from the nearby river could be pumped to local fields, which could then grow crops and help feed people in the village.
Eleven year old Nissan Abraham Pani from India found that many people in his town, especially young people, did not know how to protect and care for the environment. So Nissan decided to help create awareness amongst young people and communities, particularly about the dangers of deforestation, the importance of planting trees, and ways to stop pollution. Using birthday money from his grandparents to start his project, Nissan worked with his family and his church to create a group that raised money for projects and educating people about the environment. He has provided 3,000 saplings to three different communities, as well as created seven “Save the Planet” groups for young people, and education three thousand people about ways to care for the earth!
Cassandra Priebe from the United States is just 9 years old and she started “Cassie’s 5,000 New Trees Fund” to raise money to buys saplings to plant. She raised money by selling her own drawings, clay sculptures and jewelry to her family and friends and donated the money to Trees for the Future. What inspired her to start her project? She realized that people do not recognize that when they destroy trees, they are also destroying the animals that live in and depend on those trees, which messes up the eco-system and ultimately the planet and humans. As Cassie said, “The end result is that people are actually destroying themselves along with everything else.”
Teenager Alec Loorz started his organization, Kids vs. Global Warming, after watching the environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, when he was 12 years old. A year later, he made a one-minute video about climate change that turned into a global campaign called iMatter, which is about “young people standing up and telling the world that they matter.”
When you go to the iMatter and Kids vs. Global Warming website, you see these words first: “[A]ddiction to fossil fuels has put the future of our entire generation at risk. [T]hat’s why we have the moral authority to insist that our society learns to…LIVE AS IF OUR FUTURE MATTERS.” Alex’s organization and campaigns seek to give youth the tools they need to learn about
climate change and to do something about stopping its causes and working towards solutions. Check out the site for more information on youth environmental activists participating in his campaigns, the campaigns themselves, how you can take action, and more.
Watch Alex tell you in his own words why he became an environmental activist and listen to his message to youth around the world, all of whom have the ability to make a difference in the fight against climate change.
When Cassandra Lin was in middle school, she read an article about how some residents in her hometown in Rhode Island (USA) could not afford to heat their homes. She wanted to help, so she and a group of friends decided on transforming used
cooking oil into biofuel and distributing it to those in need. They formed TGIF, or Turn Grease Into Fuel, which works with their partner, Grease Co., to collect and deliver leftover grease to a biodiesel refiner, where it gets turns into biodiesel fuel which can be used to heat homes.
These young people started going around to local restaurants collecting used cooking oil and encouraged their friends, families, and neighbors to recycle their grease. By the middle of 2012, TGIF had collected almost 40,000 gallons of leftover cooking oil, which is equivalent to canadian pharmacy no prescription over $60,000 worth of alternative fuel that keeps 92 families in heated homes over the cold winter months.
This recycling program has moved beyond Cassandra’s hometown to the whole state of Rhode Island, which requires all businesses that use cooking oil to recycle the grease! As Cassandra said, “It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, anyone can make a difference.”
Watch Cassandra explain exactly what TGIF does, including how her team went about collecting the leftover grease from restaurants and their hope that the fuel will be used by people in the winter who cannot afford to heat their homes.
Do you think this is an interesting solution for both waste management and fuel needs?
Throughout January we are continuing with our December theme of Environmental Heroes, but with a youthful twist! We will be profiling the exciting work of young environmental activists.
Just how important is your age when you want to be an activist? This article highlighting five incredible young environmental activists explores that issue and looks at their amazing accomplishments. As the article states, “Is age an issue when you are really passionate about something? When you are worried about the future of your planet and want to do something? These kids think not and have started to realize their dreams at a very early age. Full of commitment, energy and passion and with an ability to reach beyond borders, these kids have inspired people worldwide with their amazing stories.”We profiled one of the five youth, William Kamkwamba, in an earlier blog. Learn more about William and his incredible homemade windmill and how he became “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” here.
Felix Finkbeiner is another of the five young people profiled in the article. Known as “the tree planter,” Felix started his organization Plant for the Planet in his home country of Germany. The organization is “a global network of child activists who aim to mitigate climate change by reforesting the planet,” and was started when Felix was nine as a school project. By the time Felix was thirteen, Plant for the Planet had become an international presence in 131 countries and his original goal of planting 1 million trees in Germany had been completed many times over. Felix became a youth representative for UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, and started the program Stop Talking, Start Planting. He also wrote a book called Tree by Tree and even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!
Check back throughout this month as we spotlight other young environmental heroes!
Environmental heroes come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Today’s environmental hero is William Kamkwamba, “the green garbage inventor” and “the boy who harnessed the wind.”
In 2001, William had to drop out of school at 14 because of a severe drought that meant his family could not afford his school fees. In order to continue his education, he began getting books from the library and, using a textbook with a picture of a wind turbine, he built a windmill to power his family’s home. What was
the windmill made of?
“[A] broken bicycle, tractor fan blade, old shock absorber, and blue gum trees.” News of William’s incredible windmill gained widespread attention and eventually he wrote a book, “The boy who harnessed the wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope.” The books critics say that “William’s book is a marvel of innovation and solutions for a new generation growing into the challenges of our modern world.”
William’s TEDTalk video: “How I Built A Windmill”
William’s TEDTalk video: ”How I Harnessed the Wind”
The International Youth Environmental Photo Contest (IYEPC) is a competition that seeks to show exactly how youth around the world see their environment. Whether it is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or the heartache of desertification in Mongolia, the competition wants you to show exactly what the environment is to you, through “Youth’s very own eyes,” which IYEPC hopes will help the world feel exactly what you feel.
IYEPC has three simple steps:
• “Step 1: Take a photo of your environment
• Step 2:
Along with your story of the photo, upload your photo in the ‘Eyes of the Youth’
• Step 3: You may be the winner!! Enjoy and comment [on] each other’s photo[s]!”
Through the photo competition, IYEPC hopes to:
• Raise awareness of environment around the world!
• Encourage protection of our endearing nature!
• Bring the world together, regardless of nation or [ethnicity]!
For information on how to upload your photo, check out the Basic Information section.
To see the amazing photos that young people around the world are submitting, click on Eyes of the Youth! Will you go out into your environment and take a photo of what it means to you? Don’t forget to submit it to the IYEPC to share your unique youth experience!