It’s easy to get really down about the future of this planet when you read the news: polluted water, oceans and air. Genetically modified food. Animal testing. Lost biodiversity. Climate change. But then I see teens and kids already working passionately to make our planet a better place—and I see a ray of hope. Check out these amazing youth advocates, who have already dedicated a good portion of their young lives to educating others and enacting change:
1. As a child, Birke Baehr started reading food labels and researching the ingredients of everything his family was eating. “I discovered the dark side of the industrialized food system,” he said in his popular TEDx Talk at age 11 (he’s now 15), which covered the topics of factory farms, GMOs, pesticides and herbicides. He soon turned his passions for natural food into a website (www.birkeonthefarm.com), a children’s book, speaking appearances and a solid foundation for a future in organic farming. His tips for other kids (and adults): “Think local. Choose organic. Know your farmer. Know your food.”
2. Jasmine Polsinelli, 13, has a lofty goal: The lifelong animal lover wants to end Canada’s fur trade by the time she’s 20. Her YouTube video, “The Truth About Trapping,” won the Russell Simmons Creative Animal Hero Kids Award last year. In it, she describes the cruel and inhumane body traps and snares used by hunters and implores the CEO of Canada Goose to meet with her to discuss other alternatives. “When I think of fur,” she says, “I think of how we would feel if a much smarter and stronger being came down to earth and did all the things to us, that we are doing to defenseless animals and innocent people on our planet.” Read more about her advocacy efforts on her blog.
3. Between the ages of 6 to 9 years old, in Richard Tuere’s Kenyan community, boys are put in charge of keeping their family’s cows safe. Lions had been such a problem there that many of them were being killed. So when Tuere took charge of his family’s cows, he was determined to find a better way. After tinkering with various ideas, he finally came upon a genius and humane solution that’s now being used all over Kenya to scare away predators and which won him a scholarship to a prestigious school. In his TED Talk, “My Invention Made Peace With Lions,” which he gave at age 13, he talks about how he was able to trick the lions into thinking he was walking around the cowshed. “But I was sleeping in my bed,” he says. “I used to hate the lions, but now because my invention is saving my father’s cows and the lions, we are able to stay with the lions without any conflict.”
4. Juliette West founded her nonprofit, JulietteSpeaks, as a teenager in 2012 to protect captive and wild elephants and encourage other youth advocates. Now 18, the elephant activist and star of the documentary “How I Became an Elephant” continues to dedicate her life to saving elephants, whether saving an elephant in Thailand or speaking out against circuses.
5. Ken was just 9 years old when had the dream of opening a nonprofit, no-kill shelter out of his garage in the Philippines. Thanks to the financial support of donors from all over the world, his vision for Happy Animals Club has come true. “I want to save as many of those dogs [from the city pound] as possible from being killed for no reason,” he says on his website. Check out the Happy Animals Club site here for the most adorable pics ever of Ken and his many rescues (or to donate).
What youth advocates inspire you? Share them here! (As a side note, we’ll be taking next week off and will resume the blog in the first week of August. Wishing you a heartful and inspiring week!)