Teens for green

By MCT

A 17-year-old Palo Alto, Calif., girl has launched what she hopes will become a nationwide youth movement focused on global warming.

Last weekend, some 80 teenagers gathered at Stanford University for a three-day conference that marked the beginning of Inconvenient Youth, a campaign founded by Castilleja School rising senior Mary Doerr. Each is being trained to lead presentations on climate change based loosely on the one given by Al Gore in his film, An Inconvenient Truth.

But where Gore sought mainly to educate and warn people of climate change’s perils, Doerr says her group emphasizes action. Beyond showing slides, its members will be asked to lobby elected officials, start clubs at their schools, and find ways to cut their own families’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The whole enterprise revolves around a website that doubles as a resource hub-with tips such as how to set up a slide projector-and a social networking community where members can share ideas and experiences.

“I want to get young people everywhere engaged and active and really questioning,” Doerr said. “What right do older generations have to jeopardize our future?”

Doerr admits her goal of starting a youth movement akin to the civil rights movements of the 1960s is ambitious, especially for a girl who plans to take a full course load in her upcoming senior year of high school. But she already has plenty of help.

Other teens, including 19-year-old Miles Alkine of Menlo Park, Calif., have joined Inconvenient Youth as officers. Adults, including family friends and mentors, sit on the nonprofit’s advisory board.

On Aug. 29, the conference’s young attendees got advice on stage poise from an adult speech coach. Thanks to family connections, the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller helped publicize the event pro bono. Attendees were recruited from the San Francisco Bay area and beyond through a grapevine of school officials.

“We wanted to kick off in the most effective way possible and unite kids from all over the place,” Doerr said.

Jenny Fuentes, 17, came up from Los Angeles after being nominated by her college counselor.

“I always wanted to do something for the environment, but I didn’t know what to do,” she said. When she returns from the training, Fuentes has already lined up presentations to groups at her school and at nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Doerr is hoping Fuentes and the others who attend the weekend’s conference at Stanford University are just “the first wave” of Inconvenient Youth ambassadors. If the website takes off, for instance, she could envision holding similar training sessions every few months.

The conference ran through Aug. 31 at Stanford University.

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