March 9th, 2011


Sustainability Advisor, Boy Scouts of America

Author, Generation Hot



The climate change debate in America appears hopelessly stuck. The major opposition party not only resists taking action but questions the science compelling us to act. If the US is to have any chance to break the stalemate, young people must get involved and force their voice to be heard, said a panel of activists convened by Climate One on Wednesday, March 9 in San Francisco.

For Alec Loorz, the 16-year-old founder of, change will come because his generation and those that follow demand it. What's needed, he said, is "revolution"one that "ignites the compassion in people's hearts so that they realize that the way we are doing things now is not right and it doesn't live with the survival of my generation and future generations in mind.

Loorz is organizing the iMatter march, planned for this spring, which aims to mobilize 1 million young people in all 50 states on the same day. "Youth have the moral authority to say to our parents, our leaders, and our teachers, "Do I matter to you? Does my future mater to you?" he said.

Mark Hertsgaard, journalist and author, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, welcomes the activism of youth because the forces arrayed against them are so powerful. Let's remember, he said, that oil companies "are the richest business enterprise in the history of humanity. It is not surprising that they have enormous political power. The only way that you overcome that kind of entrenched money power is through sustained and very determined people power."

Scott Harmon, sustainability advisor to Boy Scouts of America, is mobilizing youth by harnessing the power and reach of the world's largest youth organization: scouting. There are 100 million young people active in scouting worldwide, he noted, with 70 million in China alone. Until now, however, scouts hadn't done much of anything about sustainability, despite the importance of nature and the outdoors being enshrined in its founding document.

Scouts may march, Harmon said, but even more important is "to get them educated. I want to get their hands dirty doing projects that teach them about the solution." He wants youth to do two things: wake up the parents and, when they enter the workforce in five or ten years, force their companies to become more sustainable. "We're not going to get it done in our generations, even your generation probably [to Alec Loorz], so we better get the next generation, and the one behind that ready, otherwise we're really toast," he said.

"I really do think that youth standing up and showing the ruling generation we care about this will be more powerful than any lobbyist or government agenda or multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel corporation," said Alec Loorz.

- Justin Gerdes
March 9, 2011
Photos by Ed Ritger 
The Commonwealth Club of California