Fueling Freedom with the Power of Youth


Does EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wear a cape? (No, not literally--but she makes a pretty good superhero.) Are French poodles concerned about America's dependence on oil? (Yes, at least one of them is--his name is Frank.) Can the millennial generation save the planet? (We sure hope so.)

According to my millennial colleagues at NRDC--many of whom blog frequently and eloquently on Switchboard--young Americans of this generation are hungry for change and empowerment. That's why NRDC and so many environmental groups are finding ways to get millenials involved in changing policy and creating awareness, whether it's by creating videos that go viral, encouraging young people to contribute public comments on a historic proposed rule to limit carbon pollution, or starting a website featuring EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as a superhero.

Our friends at the Fuel Freedom Foundation in Irvine, California, are working to engage local college students on the issue of oil addiction with a video contest. Oil dependence is an issue that resonates with car-dependent Californians, and particularly with the millions of California college students who commute to school, and are now facing the fastest-rising tuition in the nation, coupled with high gas prices.

Film students at Chapman University are creating short videos on oil addiction and better fuels, competing for a $5,000 first prize, as well as a chance to enter a national contest for a chance to win $15,000. The Fuel Freedom videos show just how creative and passionate this generation can be--from a guerilla-style film of a young woman rapping in front of a drilling rig, to a slick montage of international oil, to a clever depiction of how much oil Americans consume in a single day (it's 1,000 gallons, in case you were wondering). There's also--of course--that French poodle.

Today's technology--the ability to create and distribute images and engage on issues at the click of a button--gives young people an unprecedented opportunity to speak out, share their views and influence change. For all of us in the environmental movement, encouraging this generation to find its voice, and make it heard, is a critical part of our work.

Just as many of my colleagues in the environmental movement came of age in a time when rivers caught fire, the millennial generation is growing up in world where the impacts of global warming are increasingly apparent, when extended heat waves, torrential storms, and crippling droughts are rapidly becoming the norm.

The generation that knows what global warming looks like forms nearly a quarter of the American voting public. That is a big, big, voting bloc, and one that stands to be a powerful voice for the environment--as long as we make the effort to ensure that they are aware of and engaged in environmental causes. And we owe them this effort. After all, they are the ones who will bear the brunt of the impact of the decisions we make today.