Gail Sheehy: Why Kids Matter

Who says only experienced adults can be activists? Meet a sixteen-year-old who thinks globally

So, what have you done lately about global warming? Not much, right? Why? Because you’re a busy grownup. I’m pitching my hopes with youth, and I don’t mean just twentysomethings. I’m betting on a sixteen-year-old revolutionary who was fired up by Al Gore and inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Every generation needs a new revolution.”

Alec Loorz was twelve years old when his mother nudged him to see a boring documentary that changed his life. Up till then, Alec had been a regular kid, goofing off in class; his primary concern was how much he could level up in his favorite video game.

“Seeing ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ changed my life forever,” the tall lanky teenager tells audiences. He applied to Gore’s organization to train as a presenter of Gore’s slide show. Rejected. Too young. So Alec created his own slideshow and traveled it around California. When he was finally able to meet the former vice-president, Gore was happy to send him off as the youngest of his trained ambassadors.

Who says only experienced adults can have vision? Alec thinks globally. He started a nonprofit organization, “Kids versus Global Warming,” and has spent his early teenage years organizing the i-Matter March for the week of Mother’s Day. From May 7- 14, his kid activists will send shockwaves around the world as they take to the streets of their communities. Middle school and high school students will be the march organizers, working with their parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and local leaders to make that week one where people of all ages from across the globe stand up to protect the world and preserve the climate for young and future generations.

“I’ve realized in my work that our problem with fossil fuels is bigger than just climate change,” Alec says. “Really, it’s about living as if the future matters.” As socially awkward as any gawky sixteen-year-old boy, Alec has developed himself into an electrifying speaker. His passion fires up his peers — but also their parents and supporters like Robert Redford and Ted Turner, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Green Building Council.

There’s a lot of ageism against young people,” he says. “Even at climate change conferences with cool people who care, they assume that young people don’t matter. But we do matter. I’m just a regular kid who isn’t rich or brilliant — but I found my passion and I went with it. Young people are some of the most creative and dedicated activists now. We have no official political power, we can’t even vote. But we have a voice. It’s not about money or power – it’s about the future of our generation and survival of the planet.”

Alec has an uncommonly civil relationship with his mother, Victoria Loorz, who usually but not always travels with him, and arranges for his home-schooling. He has traveled to Asia and virtually to Europe and Africa and Mexico. Marches are planned from city blocks of San Francisco and Denver to the suburban parks of Philadelphia and Boston. The international marches in places like Beijing and Bangkok, London, Greece and Ghana are expected to be huge. India is predicting a turnout of 100 to 200,000.

Your teenager can sign up on Facebook to lead a march in your community or join a march. Or go to imattermarch.org. An organizer toolkit and posters are available to download from the website. Alec stresses that a young leader need not be experienced; this event will train him or her for activism that can be built on for years to come.

Journalist and lecturer Gail Sheehy is the author of 16 books about adult life stages, including Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence. This story appears in USA Today

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Our futures hinge on the young people growing up today. They can see issues, such as our dependence on fossil fuels, clearly because they know it will affect their lives and that of their children to come. It takes a wise parent to introduce them to these important life problems so they can awaken mentally. Alec is just one example of what our young are capable of once they begin to get involved with environmental and social matters. Let’s not forget to credit his mother for her job of allowing him to grow into what he is today.

  2. avatar D C says:

    I saw my niece at her university this past Saturday — my middle child is starting there in the fall.  My niece is finding her place in the world, and I cannot tell you how happy we were when she was telling us that the video talent she’s been playing with the last couple of years is blossoming into a dream to become a make of documentaries.  Her only real interest in high school was Soccer.  She was great… had lots of colleges looking at her, and then she had a career ending injury.  She says she’s so glad she didn’t go on to play college level soccer, because then she wouldn’t have met the kids she has, and done the things she’s done, and wouldn’t have found the interests she has.  I love to watch young people find their passion and go after it. 

  3. avatar crystalclear says:

    Who is Al Gore?

  4. avatar pandora bracelets says:

    Kids are naughty. They need our help everyday.