About half of 11-17 year olds in the UK are worried about climate change, according to a recent survey by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A news report deemed this a surprisingly low percentage. Actually, that’s a lot of worried kids. But the biggest finding, to me, was that only 12 percent of the UK kids feel they’re capable of making an impact on the problem by changing how they live, consume, act. Look at it this way:  for every 50 kids who truly are alarmed by the future of the planet, 12 feel they can do something about it, while 38 see the problem and feel powerless.

Right now, there’s a lot of discussion about how to make more kids aware of global warming. That will grow the branches, but not the roots. The roots are the kids who know what to do about the problems they’re seeing. These kids are key to sustainable change.

You can surf the net and find signs of healthy roots in stories about kids who led volunteer cleanup projects. But what can be the tipping point that doubles or triples the “12” mentioned earlier? 

  • It can include involving teens in a “quick win” on the environmental and biodiversity fronts. The best one I know of is Amphibian Ark, which in a few years, with the right help, can claim victory in averting the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaur. For every $100,000 raised, a threatened species is placed on the Ark — and saved.
  • It can be a Google or Viacom, among others, using its information/entertainment power to tell stories of empowered kids to the rest of the teen nation.
  • It has to include local organizations, like zoos and conservations groups, that set the table with creative, educational programs and activities for youth.

But those with the greatest influence are going to be those on the frontline — parents and teachers.