Friday, March 13, 2009

Middle School Students Wake Community Up to Global Warming

On July 29, 2008, approximately 40 Ventura Charter School of Arts, and Global Education and Open Classroom middle school students erected 10 poles and signs along the Ventura Promenade, on the beach, to "wake up Ventura to the danger of sea level rise, because of global warming."

In preparation for the June 29th, event, the students presented to the Ventura City Council, and gained their enthusiastic endorsement.

The students held regular meetings at both middle schools where they made t-shirts, painted, and prepared the poles. Each school's team had a leader and a mentor: a professional from the community who advised the students. The project was also supported by an Advisory Board of adults and students, which included a City of Ventura engineer, an architect, a PR specialist, a green builder, a designer, and an environmental activist. The students had the support of the Green Building Council of Ventura County, the City of Ventura's Green Team, VCcool, and Ventura Charter School of Arts and Global Education.

On June 29th, in celebration of the poles' installation, the students held a Global Warming Youth Rally with youth bands and speakers who spoke to the crowd about global warming, held at the Ventura Promenade Park.

Following the installation, the students ran a booth at the 4th of July Street Fair, where they provided local businesses and neighbors with information about the poles, and invited them to participate by installing poles on their properties.

Ventura sits on the coast, about an hour north of Los Angeles.

Scientists project that within 100 years, sea level could rise 240 feet worldwide, because of Arctic and Antarctic ice melt, caused by global warming. That would put Ventura completely underwater. Just if Greenland melts, which climate change experts say could easily happen within one century, Ventura will look like the picture, below.

These signs, which read "You will be UNDERWATER here", mark a sea level 23 feet above current sea level. This indicates where the new sea level would be, if Greenland should melt.

The poles list well-known structures in Ventura, which would be underwater if the sea level rose 23 feet - Mandalay Power Station, the 101 Freeway, the waste water treatment plant, Pierpont Community, and the Ventura Pier.

The project's director, Alec Loorz, an 8th grader at the time, explained it this way:

The poles will also show how far underwater you would be standing at that particular location if we do nothing about global warming and the ice in Greenland melts.

We want to give people immediate things they can do as individuals and as a city. So, the poles send people to our website, (which will be live soon) to learn about what they can do to stop global warming. Our goal is to get people to change the way they view using energy and to care about the future generations of people who will be dealing with the impact of global warming.

photo: Alec Loorz

So how did this all begin? Alec explained ...

I started an organization called Kids vs Global Warming after I saw Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” last year on DVD. I wanted to be one of the 1,000 people who were trained by Gore to give the presentation themselves. But, I was turned away because I was too young. You had to be 14 and I was only 12 at the time. So, I created one of my own, with videos and music and animation so that kids would be interested and inspired to go out and make a difference. I now give the presentations to schools and environmental conferences all over California. Kids are really passionate about this issue and just need to see that their voices matter and they can make a difference in stopping climate change.

Then, last summer, I just had an idea for my town to be able to see how global warming will really affect us, and how soon. I thought if we could put up poles all around Ventura that showed how far underwater you’d be at different locations throughout the city, people would begin to see how it will affect them and make changes. I started talking about it with kids at my school and it grew from there.

Alec gave 30+ global warming presentations before being invited by Al Gore to be formally trained with the Climate Project in October of 2008. He is now the youngest trained presenter with The Climate Project.

The students hope to install 120 poles by Earth Day 2009. For the most current info, check out Alec's website.

This project has earned the support of the Surfrider Foundation's Ventura, CA Chapter.

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