Monday, June 28, 2010

The Power of the Young: Youth Participation Fighting Environmental Oil Spill Woes

While BP is still currently attempting to make amends, others have taken the situation into their own hands. With each piece of tar that washes up onto Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and now Mississippi shores from the Gulf oil spill, comes concern and fear about how severe future ecosystem devastation will be, and the severity of economic downturn for the residents.

Every day, CNN reports on the oil spill in the Gulf, and offers five different ways to potentially end this environmental disaster. From using different high tech robots to stop the leak, to detonating a nuclear bomb, all sorts of suggestions have been offered in response to this crisis.

Sometimes, while watching the latest oil spill news, many of us at one time or another probably feel a sense of helplessness. Since many of us cannot simply take time off of work to go directly to the Gulf and volunteer our time, many may feel that they cannot do as much as they would like in this time of environmental distress.

What is often overlooked however, is that some of the most inspiring work to save the wildlife in the Gulf coast is being done by young people.

For example, fifth-grader Olivia Bouler has raised $60,000 through her sketches and paintings of different birds. She sends a picture to anyone who donates to: The Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, The Weeks Bay Foundation, The Mobile Bay Estuary Program or The National Wildlife Fund.

A Facebook group titled "Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations” has also been created, in order to inspire other young people, and show them that they can directly impact their neighborhood.

So what’s the lesson learned? Perhaps it’s that young people have a chance to truly create change in their communities. This illustrates how important civic engagement can be in these types of circumstances. More focus could being going into encouraging the younger generation and recognizing their efforts to bring change. I bet there’s a lot more Olivias out there, and by supporting youth participation in society, we can find those kids, and allow them to express themselves through their remarkable gifts.

Do you have any inspiring stories of young people responding in their own innovative ways to the Gulf oil spill? Please share them in the comments below!

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