“Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”
Youth activist Greta Thunberg
Although Greta was talking about combating climate depression, we could say the same about improving air quality. Given our intransigent challenge of cleaning it up, it can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Our youth are the most impacted by air pollution, but are also the most likely to benefit from clean air.
In our 6th year of California Clean Air Day, we’re focusing on youth. We’ve seen how young people have pushed their schools to adopt no-idling policies, changed menus to ensure students have access to meatless options, engaged in some of the most creative air quality experiments we’ve seen, run PSAs for clean air and much more. These same students were our inspiration for leading the charge to install the largest school-based air quality monitoring system in the United States with LAUSD.
We divided our youth pledge into three categories: elementary, middle and high school. If you include college-age students among youth, we’d note that we also added a couple of items to the individual pledge just for them. While we were proud to have students of every age group participate, we recognize that there are things a 17-year-old can accomplish that a 7-year-old cannot.
Our goal this year is ambitious. We want to have schools from every corner of the State, every age group and every walk of life participating. We know it’s not going to be easy, but it’s the charge we are giving to our Regional Working Groups. We know that these professionals are up to the task. Our microgrant program this year will also focus on youth participation.
Our focus on youth doesn’t mean we’re letting our adult friends off the hook. Clean Air Day is about getting everyone to do their part. We invite you to challenge your family, school and youth organizations in your network to do what they can. Match your employer’s commitment with the local youth organization. Let’s have a conversation and then take action, to move the needle forward in creating clean air in our communities.
We invite you to check out our new toolkit for schools and for teachers. Watch the students from Pittsburg High School challenge each other to do more.