From the ARCADE Issue 35.1 feature, “Generation Anthropocene: Climate Change and Life After the End of a World.” Articles from the issue will release online over the following weeks.  Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

Planet of Kids

All photography: Susan Lenander

The young people writing here are members of the Seattle chapter of Plant-for-the-Planet, a youth-based climate justice organization that has worked with a legal team and scientists to sue the State of Washington over its failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The group has also, among many other things, been planting trees, urging the Gates Foundation to divest from stocks directly tied to fossil fuels, and pushing for the US government to put warning labels on gas pumps in much the same way it puts warning labels on cigarette packets. These kids mean business. Let’s hear what they have to say.

—Charles Tonderai Mudede, "Generation Anthropocene"  Feature Editor

Theo Faloona, Age 9

planet of kids group

When I think of climate change in my future, I worry, “What if everyone would have to wear a mask or even move to a different planet?” People are already trying to make Mars more “Earth-like” because of climate change, but sending a rocket to Mars would pollute Earth’s atmosphere even more!

At this rate, by the year 2050, 80 billion tons of CO2 will be in the Earth’s atmosphere! Today, it’s at 50 billion tons, and the goal is 15 billion tons by 2050 according to the OECD Environment Directorate. To reach this goal, we must reduce the CO2 by planting trees and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Polar bears are already dying from climate change, and they will probably go extinct before then!

That’s why I got involved by joining a kids-run organization called Plant-for-the-Planet. It’s a large group of kids who plant trees and are politically active about climate change. As a member of Plant-for-the-Planet, I have spoken at a Port of Seattle Commission meeting and urged our commissioners not to cut down 3,000 trees, as well as organized the Seattle chapter of Plant-for-the-Planet’s first redwood tree planting. We planted five redwood trees at Jefferson Park and participated in a Break Free from Fossil Fuels action in which we marched beside the main coal refinery of the Pacific Northwest. One of the main things YOU can do is plant trees SO GET OUT AND PLANT SOME!

Aji Piper, Age 16

Planet of Kids

Dreams are the thread with which the tapestry of the future is woven. Today, the dreams of the youth are discarded as fictitious and merely whimsical fantasies born from an inability to comprehend the world and its workings.

Mahatma Gandhi had a dream of freedom; Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of equality and freedom; the founding fathers of the country had a dream that they may live separate from the kingdom of Britain. The old heroes are hailed for their dreams, so why are my dreams discredited? Why does everyone belittle my dreams as implausibilities, idealistic thoughts born of naïveté and childishness? When adults are speaking, people decide that their ideas are original and based on lots of knowledge, and when we youth speak up and share our thoughts, we are looked down upon with something akin to disgust.

Planet of Kids at the Capitol

Adults view our ideas as unoriginal, as if we are nothing but puppets for furthering the agendas of the adults who are in our lives. But my dream is to live peacefully in a world with clean air and water, with plenty of resources and sustainable ways of maintaining them. Is that too much to ask? Must we keep blinding ourselves with money and the idea that we can’t do better, locking ourselves in a negative feedback cycle, dooming ourselves to approaching times of conflict and turmoil, leaving future generations to eke out lives in a world with a collapsing biosphere?

If we all listen to our youth and stop trying to be miserable, we will all walk on into a better future.

Adonis Williams, Age 12

Planet of Kids

C6 ... Unite!!!

The six plaintiffs sat together at a table in a café in Fremont, Seattle. They had all just come from their various schools across the city. Gabe looked around the table and began the meeting in an unofficially official way.

“Sooo ... how is everyone’s day so far?”

Athena gave a noncommittal “meh.”

And the rest of us just went with that, because really, with the danger that our future was in at that moment and whole year (2016), there was an overlying tone of sadness and depression at the café table. Still, we were happy that we were doing something about it, and we looked forward to the next time that we could get together and talk about the legal case against the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The case was being supported by the organization Our Children’s Trust, which helped youth like us bring the fight to a legal level and let our voices be heard. The science that we used to back our case was supplied by James Hansen, a climate scientist that further researched the effect that CO2 has had on our atmosphere.

Essentially, because of greenhouse gasses there is an energy imbalance. There is more energy entering Earth’s atmosphere than leaving it. This causes heat to build up and become absorbed into the oceans, warming the water and melting the ice, which makes more water that gets warmer and melts more ice, and so on and so forth.

In order to slow this cycle, we needed 6% of greenhouse gasses cut globally starting in 2013!!! It’s 2017! This was updated by Pushker Kharecha, a scientist who looked at the information again and discovered that if we start cutting emissions this year, we would need to reduce greenhouse gases globally by 9% in 2017 and by 10% in 2018. The Washington State Department of Ecology just recently put out a clean air rule that tells 19 companies to reduce their emissions by 1.7% a year.

Planet of Kids

I look at these facts, and I think about all of the places I love. I see Crystal Mountain, where my school, the Seattle Country Day School, goes skiing and snowboarding in the Winterim program. I think of the Puget Sound, polluted to the point that the salmon cannot leave the rivers, and I worry about the rivers becoming polluted by oil from a pipeline spill. These things look me in the face and knock the wind out of me. Then they wait for me to get back up just to kick me again.

The only way to do more than just try to half-heartedly amend what has already been done is to attack the problem head on, and that’s what the C6 are doing. We’re kids. We can’t vote, and it would be easy for us to feel powerless and that we have no future. We refuse to give in to watching our air, water, and food be poisoned by greed. We refuse to give in to watching our government and adults who are supposed to protect and teach us continue to invest in and build on fossil fuel infrastructure. Greed makes no sense to us. It’s our future at stake, and we may be kids, but we’re not heartless, and we’ve discovered we’re not powerless either. So here we are suing our government, planting trees, and trying to build our future. What future are you building?