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Empowering Kids to Tackle Climate Change

By  Kristina Hulvershorn

If you spend time with humane educators, you’re likely to hear us say, “The antidote for despair is action.”  We know that if we are going to burden young people with the realities of world issues, we must also offer them a way to impact those issues in a positive way.  A coalition of organizations including HEART will soon unveil a Climate Change Toolkit, which will provide hundreds of high-quality learning opportunities for K-12 students around climate change.  In the meantime, we know that there are many kids who already understand climate change (often even better than their parents do!) and are inspired to take action. Here are a few approaches to help guide those changemakers toward positive action.

We hope these pointers are helpful.  If you have any tips to add to this list, we’d love to hear from you!

ProblemWhat can I do?
I want to speak up for the planet, but I don’t know enough about it.It’s not hard to learn the basics, and you don’t need to know every detail—understanding the key concepts and why climate change matters to you is enough. Practice talking to your friends and family, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to talk to anyone!
At my house, we are wasting too much energy and creating a lot of greenhouse gases.Check out this interesting interview with an expert and a website about saving energy designed especially for kids. Most parents would appreciate help with saving energy (and helping our planet at the same time). Read through a list of energy-saving tips with your parents and see how many you can use!
People don’t get it!Make a YouTube video roleplaying a conversation you might have with someone who doesn’t believe climate change is real. Include as much persuasive speech and science as you can and avoid making personal attacks. It’s okay for it to be funny, serious, or whatever you want it to be. (If you make a video, let HEART know about it!)
It’s such a BIG problem. Where do I start?Use your voice in places you understand and care about. You have influence in places in your own community.Can you encourage your school or church to reduce energy?Can you do a neighborhood cleanup or tree planting?Can you help your family separate recyclables?Can you encourage buying less stuff and not ask for new clothes and toys more than you need to?
It seems like companies—even companies whose products I like—are a big part of the problem.Yep. Unfortunately, many companies make a lot of money while doing a lot of harm to our planet. Write a letter to your favorite toy company if they are using too much plastic. Organize a boycott (even if it’s just you and your friends) and then write a letter or make a video to show the company that people like you are paying attention. Companies take note when they hear from people like you, and maybe they will even change their practices. It happens all the time!
I heard that food choice can help reduce climate change. Where do I start?Throw your parents for a loop by telling them you think that your family should eat more vegetables because that can make a huge difference for the planet and your family’s health. If you are curious about what to eat, one easy way to figure it out is:
1) Think of a meal that sounds really good.
2) If what you chose isn’t already vegan or vegetarian, search the internet for a version of that food that fits into one of those categories. For example, you could search: Vegan sloppy joes or Vegetarian sandwiches
Lots of tasty plant-based recipes for kids are available online. For example, one website offers 35 recipes and another offers 66 recipes.
My community isn’t taking this seriously.Interestingly, kids are the people in many communities who are helping adults wake up and take climate change seriously. Most of you have heard of Greta Thunberg. If not, it’s worth listening to some of her speeches. You can also read about some other amazing young people. Find out what is happening in your city and state. Maybe you could make a speech, write a letter to the editor, or even help create or change laws that could protect the planet! Ask your parents to help you find an environmental group in your area that you could join.

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