Stand Up for Alaska: Alaska Youth for Environmental Action
Narrator: Alaska's natural wonders have captivated visitors from around the world.
Narrator: But this spectacular last frontier has also become center stage for the escalating drama of global climate change.
Drew: On the whole, the world's warming up. It's warming up most in Alaska. Alaska summertime temperatures have risen by three to five degrees Fahrenheit, and wintertime temperatures have risen from eight to ten degrees Fahrenheit.
Narrator: The facts are stunning and particularly relevant to seventh and eighth graders in this climate change elective class at Central Middle School in Anchorage.
Drew: So one thing is, it's really troubling our forests. It's troubling our forests for a coupla different reasons. As you can see in this graph, forests tend to build up dead wood and stuff--
Narrator: As a junior in high school, Drew Cason joined Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, and co wrote the presentation he gives to schools and other groups.
Drew: This is a truly kind of unique, in a really bad way, experience for Alaskan forests, is to have them burn at this rate.
Around the same time that Vice President Gore was giving his presentation the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" is based upon, we were going around Alaska and giving a very similar presentation, focused on Alaska, to Alaska high school students.
Seventeen hundred miles of Alaska highways are built on permafrost. As we see warming, the permafrost is melting, and that's causing the ground to open up holes. As we can see, some of these roads, it costs a lotta money to fix roads all around Alaska.
The idea was to get signatures for petition, as well as to inform Alaskan youth about this issue, and that it was important to them.
All right, next slide.
Ryan: The Alaska Youth for Environmental Action program actually provides an avenue for teens not only to take the lead on certain issues, but also do a lot of peer to peer training, leadership and facilitation.
Youth: I think the district submits their budget in January, maybe. I heard that was the deadline, so we're gonna try to get them to take on the institutionalized recycling.
Ryan: Having a youth led organization to really empower teenagers to take issues into their own hands I think is pretty remarkable.
Narrator: After gathering more than five thousand signatures from Alaska youth, Drew and other members of AYEA traveled to Washington to express their concerns about climate change to Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Drew: We had an official meeting with Senator Murkowski, and then directly after that, she came out and publicly said that she thought that perhaps there was some need for carbon tax. And of course, now she's actually endorsed a bill that involves a cap and trade system.
And so we felt very proud of ourselves for that, 'cause we felt like it was a tangible influence on our senator's position in Congress. I mean, that was a very big deal for a bunch of high school kids to have done.
It's tough to say, "This was caused by global warming," but what we can say is that the storms have generally been stronger.
Mark: They have been very active in educating not only young people, but also adults. So not only does the program talk about the environmental issues, they talk about leadership skills, how to build leadership skills, how to involve young people, how to engage them. So it's a well rounded program.
Youth: I encourage you guys to take the pledge yourselves, but you can--
Narrator: During each presentation, students are invited to take personal action to combat global warming by signing the three, two, one pledge, and doing simple things, like switching to fluorescent light bulbs.
Youth: The plan was to get six thousand of these pledges. We're still working on it. Were up to about four thousand right now.
Brian: I'm working with some really bright and really motivated kids in this climate change elective, but to be able to have Drew and his brother Wiley come and present is the difference between talking about it and doing it. And these guys are out there doing it. They're on the front lines.
Student: Wouldn't the rising prices of gasoline, wouldn't that make it more efficient to like transfer to more gasoline efficient cars, such as hybrids?
Brian: My students recognize that these guys are just a little bit older than them, and they're already making an impact and effecting positive change.
Student: We could do something to catch those droplets of oil that you take when you fill up your car.
Drew: So I mean, that's a great idea. If you could make a pump that wouldn’t drip any gasoline--
I think it's a problem a lotta young people have, is they feel like maybe their opinions don't count, or they're too young to really new. But AYEA organization offers a lot of opportunities to get young people's voice heard. It really gives them the tools as far as writing, as far as speaking, as far as understanding that they matter, that they can sit in meetings with senators of the United States, and impact them, and, you know, make a difference in whatever they feel passionately about.
Student: Maybe if we got people to charge extra for more trashcans they put out, that maybe they would start recycling more because of the money.
Drew: Recycling, that would be awesome.
Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to edutopia.org.