For a couple of days I’ve been deep in thought. That has everything to do with my next role model: Alec Loorz. He’s a boy from California, twenty years old, who has already had a career as climate activist. When he was twelve he saw Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth and decided to do everything to stop global warming in his lifetime. At that time he didn’t know yet that he would sue the United States.
Starting at twelve he worked tirelessly, day and night, to complete his mission. To begin with, he tried to enrol in Al Gore’s training program to become an official Climate Leader, but he was rejected because he was too young (‘Boo hoo, Al Gore’, as he would say later in a presentation). When he was finally admitted, after two years and a personal talk with Al Gore, he had already given hundreds of presentations to his peers on schools throughout California. In the following years, that number went into the tens of thousands, travelling the world. With his youthful enthusiasm, his humor, but also his anger and outrage which he displayed during those presentations he opened the eyes of many. He made complicated topics simple and easy to understand for his peers. Check out the short video he used during his presentations.
He started the organization Kids vs. Global Warming – mainly because the people organizing the conferences he attended often wanted to put a function title behind his name on the program – and it didn’t take long before he mobilized peers throughout America to initiate various projects. In the ensuing years more and more kids and teenagers joined Kids vs. Global Warming and in 2011 he organized the iMatter March via social media, a worldwide demonstration of over 50,000 (!) youths from 45 countries and 180 cities.
In that year he also met Mary Woods, a law professor at the University of Oregon who discovered that is was theoretically possible to hold the government of the United States accountable for its lack of climate policy because of the public trust doctrine. Alec brought together a group of kids and teenagers and they decided to sue the American federal and state governments. On his blog, he writes:
'Most sixteen-year-olds I know are interested in student jobs, cars, clothes and hanging around with friends. Not in saving the world. But I’m given the opportunity to do exactly that. When I was fourteen I was part of a groundbreaking legal attempt to protect the atmosphere for future generations and to ensure that we, young people, would still have a planet to grow up on. Together with kids from 49 states I am sueing the country and the federal government. By means of an old legal concept known as public trust I am forcing them to protect the atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. This concept is based on the notion that the government is obliged to protect things that its citizens are depending on, like water. However, it has never been used to protect the atmosphere because no one ever thought the atmosphere needed protection.'
He had a strong case, got a lot of publicity but… an intervention came by the best lawyers of the biggest American oil companies, supporting the American government. The battle got rough and it still is. Alec Loorz is an inspiring role model for the FutureFuel quest, but he is also the reason that I am a little down. I will tell you why. Watching his presentations I can see that for the past eight years he has been struggling with the same questions I am trying to answer with my quest. I see him finding answers that reach deeper and deeper, just like I did. From a lack of connection to a system crisis and a global transformation: many of our answers are alike. But watching his YouTube videos I also see that he is losing the sparkle in his eyes, that despair is creeping in. I see him struggling.
The fragment that affected me the most in these past couple of weeks is this one. Please check out the video below, starting at 3’47: it’s a presentation he gave last summer. Alec, now in his twenties, tells about the woods that became an important place of refuge for him during the first year at university.
I can hardly imagine how it must feel to give up so much of your life (your friends, your hobbies, your high school period), battle so hard, initiate so much, and in the end be unable to stop the cutting of ‘your’ woods. It made me go all quiet, and frankly, I still am.
(You can submit questions again, of course. By donating to the FutureFuel project you help realizing my journey and you will receive a personal answer of Alec Loorz. The deadline for submitting your question is Friday 12 September.)