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New Mexico's Agents of Change for Climate Action are Grade Schoolers

Climate change has inspired children to become activists for change while still in grade school as part of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming Express. (riograndesierraclub)
Climate change has inspired children to become activists for change while still in grade school as part of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming Express. (riograndesierraclub)
September 12, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. – A new report out this week says those most affected by climate change, including grade school children growing up in New Mexico, did the least to cause the problem.

But many of those children have joined The Global Warming Express in order to make a difference.

Led by the Rio Grande Sierra Club, students ages 9 to 12 throughout New Mexico join the Express to influence legislation and make a lasting impact on climate.

David Coss, executive committee chair of the Rio Grande Sierra Club, says the children’s voices are being taken seriously.

“They recently got Bernalillo County to end the distribution of plastic bags and Styrofoam take-out,” he notes. “So that's quite a coup for the organizers of that event."

The Global Commission on Adaptation report says $1.8 trillion needs to be spent over the next decade to adapt to climate change, but net benefits could be worth $7 trillion.

Ten-year old Emily Christopher was a 4th grader when she started a Global Warming Express chapter for home schooled children.

She produced a video about fracking, created a blog for students to share their projects about climate change, and traveled to the State Capitol in Santa Fe to address legislators.

"I was doing a lot of speaking at rallies and a little at the Roundhouse (State Capitol), and it was just something important to me and it was a way I could make it feel like I was doing something to help the world," she relates.

The Global Warming Express now has students engaged in about 20 New Mexico schools. Genie Stevens, climate education director for the Rio Grande Sierra Club, says rather than hearing the news headlines and feeling afraid or helpless, children are willing to address adults about their inaction on climate change and brainstorm solutions.

"They say things like, 'Wait, what? How could you guys let this happen?'” she relates. “Because if you explain a situation, with the science, and you explain that grownups just need to be reminded what to do, then the kids feel pretty strongly that they want to help."

Stevens says the 90-minute weekly lesson plan includes public speaking skills and letter writing as possible avenues of activism, as well as performance and visual arts.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM