She was giving the audience 10 reasons why Assembly Bill 32 shouldn’t be overturned, chastising those conservatives who think that climate change can wait until California hits an unrealistically low unemployment rate of 5½ percent or less.
But the senator was just a warm-up. As the keynote speaker walked to the podium, the first thing you noticed was that he was tall and lanky, and young — very young. The keynote speaker for this convention, one that our governor had visited the very same day, was only 15 years old.
The speaker was Alec Loorz, a 15-year-old high school student from Ventura. He told us his story. At just 12 years old, he saw Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth.” He got it. He understood that time is running out. He wanted to take action. He wanted to make a difference.
He tried to sign up to be a trained speaker for Al Gore’s Climate Project foundation that spreads the word about global warming. He was rejected. Not unexpected when a kid asks to step into the adult world as an equal. But here is the surprising thing: That didn’t stop him. Instead of giving up, he found another path. Alec, at just 12 years old, created a foundation called Kids vs. Global Warming so he could spread the word to other kids.
Alec talked to kids at their level, explained the complexities of global warming in a way no adult had taken the time to. His presentation, titled “iMatter,” showcases his talent as a budding filmmaker with his passion about global warming. Using powerful images and iPhone analogies along with popular music, he gets the point across.
After 30 such self-generated speeches, he caught the eye of Al Gore’s organization and became the youngest speaker ever to be trained. That was 150 speeches ago.
Since making a difference isn’t just about speeches, Alec sought to show people the power of the message. At just 13 and concerned about the effects that global warming has on sea levels, he found a way to drive the point home. Exploring on Google Earth, he found a photo simulation of what the California coastline will look under the projected rise of seawater.
For his hometown, Ventura, that meant the loss of a city, as the power plant, sewer treatment plant and other city services would be under water. He created a simple visualization: A pole, with the high water line well above everyone’s heads. The project’s name is SLAP: Sea Level Awareness Project. And he got the poles installed at all the public beaches in Ventura.
Alec was an inspiring speaker. With a booming voice, he was confident in front of an audience that was easily more than twice his age. And they listened.
His message: Never underestimate the power of kids. They can make a difference if given half a chance. His motto: Change the world, don’t just occupy it. Teens only For a change: Show that you care by your actions and persistence. Start with yourself: Recycle at home and at school. Ride your bike to school, instead of having your parents drive you.
To make a difference: Invite Alec Loorz to come to Tracy and give his speech. He will listen to you. Visit the contact page on his Web site, Empowering Youth to Cool the Earth. If you need help, let me know.
To make a stand: Start your very own youth climate action team. Visit the Alliance for Climate Education and make a difference together. Parents, educators and adults For a change: Listen. Kids don’t get hung up on problems and have energy only for solutions.
To make a difference: Invite Alec Loorz to come to Tracy and give his speech. Show our kids that we care enough about them to help them be involved at their level, instead of just ours.
To make a stand: Lead by example. Don’t expect kids to do what you yourself won’t. Recycle. Walk. Use your purchasing power to buy sustainable products and then teach our kids the power to change. • Christina D.B. Frankel is a 20-year Tracy resident, architect and mother of three. Her column, Living Green, runs twice-monthly in the Tracy Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.