On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day…there are millions of individuals in this country with a bit of free time and an overwhelming desire to take action to make their communities and their planet better; an army of willing individuals who are quietly changing the world but who need more help if they are to reach their full potential. Who are these agents of change? Look around you, I have no doubt you encounter them everyday…you may even have them in your home. That’s right…youth. The power they have is amazing.
A year ago I had the opportunity to work with a group of three middle school boys who, as part of a service project in their community, did some research and found that lead wheel weights through improper disposal cause a considerable amount of lead pollution in the environment. These young men took matters into their own hands and worked tirelessly to pass a law in the state of Iowa to phase out lead wheel weights on state vehicles. Then the EPA cited the program as one of the reasons they are re-assessing their position on lead wheel weights, a development that will affect 300 million Americans across the country. I have seen other projects as well, from Title 1 elementary school students in South Florida growing a garden and selling the produce into the local community,to a high school in Seattle reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by several tons each year . I have been all over the country and have seen countless programs such as these.
And now EarthEcho International has launched a campaign to bring much-needed resources and tools to build a community of best practice that will help to revolutionize this growing movement. In partnership with the leading youth service organizations and national education groups in the nation, we are launching a preview of the Water Planet Challenge (www.waterplanetchallenge.org) this week.This preview site includes a service-learning guide sponsored by Participant Media, and is being launched in tandem with the Disneynature film Oceans that premiers on Earth Day. This is only the beginning, however—we continue to develop the program and will constantly add more resources over the summer in preparation time for a full launch in the fall of 2010.
As the Greek philosopher Plato once wrote, “Youth are not vessels to be filled but flames to be lit.” The Water Planet Challenge will light the flames of a whole new generation, giving them the tools and knowledge to build the kind of sustainable future we all dream of.