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School Students Take on Climate Action and Win

Catherine is a senior communications professional helping social change organizations tell their story in powerful ways. She has expertise in public health, environmental stewardship, philanthropy and education. Follow her on Twitter @CatBrozena

It’s the ultimate David & Goliath story.

In one corner, the underdog. The seemingly small voice in the wilderness. The “weaker” one.

In the other corner, climate change. That great, big, almost unstoppable adversary. That which could threaten generations, nations, an entire planet.

School student versus climate change. Youth versus problem-created-through-the-ages.

But the school student is winning. Why? Because the voices of young people — impassioned, resolute and empowered — are just as formidable a force as that of climate change. And ultimately, all of us win when younger generations come to understand the links between the science of climate change and its impacts on the health and well-being of their communities…and do something about it.

Take this group of students from King-Chavez Community High School in San Diego, who were so inspired by what they learned in their environmental justice class that they made the trek to Oakland, Calif. in early February to be part of the March for Real Climate Leadership, calling on a moratorium on fracking in California because of the perceived health implications.

Or listen to Kerry Brock, a young high school senior and co-founder of Student Organized Climate Action, speaking at the Massachusetts State House during a Global Divestment Day event in February 2015. Kerry pleads with her state’s leaders to divest from fossil fuel investments so that her generation and those that come after her will be able to have a safe future on this planet.

In Reno, Nev., youth are taking action on air quality and public health in their community. Through a partnership between the Alliance for Climate Education and Washoe County Air Quality Management District (AQMD), students are leading an Idle Free Schools Campaign across their school district to reduce the amount of tailpipe emissions from car and bus idling. In the first year of the campaign, six pilot high schools competed to reduce car and bus idling. Reed High School took the prize by reducing idling by 63%, and on average, the six participating schools reduced idling by 40%.

And in New York City earlier this morning, students took part in an Earth Day rally calling on New York State’s Department of Education to include more access to climate education in all K-12 schools so that all students could be armed with the necessary lessons of climate science. As Robert Friedman, a blogger for the National Resources Defense Council put it, “Educating young people about the risks of inaction, and the opportunities available in addressing climate change are essential.”

Climate Rally NYCThese are just a few of the stories from around the country where students are stepping up to address what many say could become one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.

This Earth Day, Thriving Schools celebrates students who are learning, growing, understanding and taking leadership on issues of environmental health that are affecting their health and the health of their communities.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s partnership with the Alliance for Climate Education

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