All That We Leave Behind:
The Environmental Burden Our Youth
Have to Bear to Restore Mother Earth
 By Stephanie Barger

 

 

“So what are you doing this Saturday?” asked Suzy. “Going to the beach with a bunch of my friends,” replies Johnny. “What fun! It should be a beautiful day for swimming and surfing,” she exclaims. “No,” Johnny laughed, “we aren’t playing. We are going to pick up trash and besides the beaches have been posted with warning signs.”

 Is this how the children of the 21st Century will spend their weekends? Not if the youth of Orange County, California have a say in it! On April 17th, 2002, over 500 youth will come together at the Earth Resource Foundation “Rock Your World” Youth Empowerment and Earth Day Fair. The students will go through a series of workshops designed to let them know about the pressing environmental issues, but more importantly to give them the tools to make a difference in the world.

Earth Resource Foundation (ERF) works with the philosophy of interconnectivity, holistic problem solving and personal responsibility in order to solve the problems of the devastation of the earth. Therefore, the topics at the event will range from rainforest destruction, globalization, consumerism, local beach closures, to environmental racism.

In December of 2001, the ERF Club at Newport Harbor High School kicked off the “Youth Empowerment” events with a “Human Broom Beach Clean Up and Youth Empowerment Day.” Over 100 students attended from 12 different high schools, including Pasadena. The day began with students picking up trash around the Santa Ana River Jetties for over two hours. After tabulating the trash, it was determined that it mainly consisted of Styrofoam, cigarette butts, and food wrappers. Through familiarizing themselves with the trash present at the beach, the students were able to discuss the possible sources of it and how they could stop it from coming into the ocean.

One step the students took was to sign a petition asking all the businesses in Orange County to stop using Styrofoam products. Stephanie Barger, Executive Director of ERF, informed the students of the substitute products for Styrofoam including products made from cornstarch, using recycled cardboard, popcorn for shipping, and bringing your own cup to fast food restaurants. “We live in a society where we can send people to the moon, but we are still using antiquated products, such as polystrene, when many cutting-edge environmentally-friendly products exist,” Ms. Barger instructed the students.

After lunch, the students broke out into various youth empowerment workshops. The topics covered ranged from Environmental Injustice, Sewage Treatment Policies, Globalization, to Environment and Human Rights. The workshops were interactive and gave students an opportunity to share their opinions and knowledge with the speakers. Each speaker presented an “activist” tool to reinforce the importance of activities such as letter writing to elected officials, the power of the press, their role in politics, learning both sides of a debate, and educating others in one’s community about the important issues.

One of ERF’s major reasons for bringing the students together is to share ideas and understand different viewpoints. An important reality is that the youth of today are willing to have less so they can have more when it comes to a healthy Earth. Through events such as this, students are able to learn not only about issues that would never be covered in any history or science class, but about important events that are directly affecting them. “I learned more in these few hours than the last week of school,” commented Lucas, a junior at Newport Harbor High School. It is for this reason that informing and empowering our youth may be the most important activity in which we can partake.

Working at The Watershed Level
ERF has just kicked-off their environmental classroom program at Newport Harbor High School “Working at the Watershed Level.” With the help of teachers, Don Johnston and Scott Morlan, Earth Resource will assist the students in collecting urban refuse at designated spots along the Upper and Lower Newport Back Bay, conduct detailed sorting of the trash (i.e., down to the brand of cigarette butts). From this information they will determine urban runoff trends and possible sources of trash. This information will then be shared with the general public through Earth Resource Foundation’s Adopt Your Neighborhood Program.

Clean Harbor Day
On April 27th, the students will have the opportunity to put their hands to work. Earth Resource Foundation is partnering with Newport Harbor Nautical Museum to clean up the Newport Bay and Watershed. The all-day cleanup event will also have an Earth Day Fair, food and music.

For more information or to volunteer contact ERF at (949) 645-5163 or visit our website at www.earthresource.org 


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