In July, the planet’s future looked grim. President Donald Trump nominated a pesticide company executive to be chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, now leads the Environmental Protection Agency. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, could dramatically undercut essential environmental laws.
Meanwhile, California is on fire. Again.
But Bay Area kids are giving us reasons to hope. Last month, they mobilized for climate change and marched in San Francisco. They communicated a message lost on many adults. Even local high school students, more interested in money than marching, expressed excitement about expanding clean energy.
These young people are a powerful reminder that terrifying presidential appointees are temporary. Although people like Wheeler and Kavanaugh may roll back environmental regulations today, our future policymakers and workforce are already planting seeds for a healthier and more sustainable tomorrow. The generation currently in power should give them the support they need.
“I don’t want to live in a planet that’s not suitable for the next generation,” Luci Paczkowski, a 16-year-old student at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, told me. “It’s a huge deal and kids need to be more involved.”
In early 2017, Paczkowski co-founded Generation: Our Climate, a grassroots advocacy group. Like Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit that supports young activists developing legal actions to compel stronger climate policies, Generation: Our Climate also advocates on behalf of youth for science-based climate recovery policies. Paczkowski and other students have testified before local and state agencies for renewable energy and water policies.
Most recently, she helped organize the youth-led Zero Hour March in San Francisco — a day of mobilization for young, environmentally concerned Americans across the country. The approximately 200 local participants met at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters on Sansome Street and marched to the Ferry Building, where they painted a street mural. The demand was straightforward: end border cruelty and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Because of the effects of natural disasters induced by climate change, people immigrate all over the world, including the USA, to escape its damages,” Paczkowski said to the crowd gathered in front of ICE headquarters. “And when they come to the USA, what are they greeted with? Family separation, travel bans and hate crimes.”
Despite the seriousness of the issue, it’s hard not to smile. Many adults struggle to understand the connection between environmental degradation and immigration. Well-spoken, energized and intelligent students like Paczkowski are a comfort to even the most jaded adults.
But tomorrow’s generation doesn’t need to be activists to have an impact.
Recently, 200 students participated in a career fair hosted by Tesla and the Community Youth Center of San Francisco. The nonprofit, which provides workforce development services, has only offered two career fairs in the almost 50 years it’s been around. But it saw a partnership with Tesla as an opportunity to dispel the myth that only geeks and top students work in the clean energy field.
“Sometimes people in those jobs can be intimidating,” Alexz Miranda, a student at George Washington High School who attended the fair, told me.
Miranda’s less interested in saving the world, and more interested in making her own money. An immigrant from the Philippines, she feels bad asking her parents for cash. Along with swimming and running cross country, she works at an ice cream shop in the Richmond District.
Liliana Guerrero, another student at George Washington High School who also participated in the event, works with Miranda. Like her colleague, she considers herself an independent person. When she turned 14 years old she decided she needed money and a job. Through CYC she found employment and has learned about other careers.
“Usually my strongest subjects weren’t math and science,” Guerrero told me. “Going to this event opened my eyes to something new.”
Empowering people to see potential in the renewable energy field is Eddie Ahn’s goal. The executive director of the local nonprofit Brightline Defense helped make the Tesla-CYC Career Fair a reality.
He told me, “To move the needle on climate change, we should all work toward supporting a younger, more diverse generation in everything from youth-led organizing to exploring careers in clean energy.”
Anyone can participate in a cleaner, healthier future and everyone should. The consequences are too dire and the opportunities can be very profitable. While adults are busy debating these facts, Bay Area kids are seizing the moment. We should do all we can to support them.
What do you do with the inserts in bottles of vitamins that absorb moisture and keep contents fresh? – Roza Yquema
I wish there was a pill to take that would make answering this question easier. If there was, it would probably come in a bottle with a silica gel pack. Typically, that is the moisture absorber manufacturers and distributors use to keep vitamins, shoes, purses and electronics dry.
While silica gel packs can’t be recycled or composted, there are numerous ideas for reusing them online. Some of my favorites include sticking them on your car’s dashboard to reduce window fogging, stashing them in damp, mold-prone corners of your home and storing them in your toolbox to minimize rusting. In a misty, foggy city like San Francisco there should be plenty of opportunities for reuse.
Sometimes manufacturers use other moisture absorbers besides silica gel. Recology, San Francisco’s waste provider, recommends contacting the manufacturer for instructions on how to dispose of alternate materials.
Have sorting questions? I have the answers! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. Check her out at robynpurchia.com.