Sunday, March 22 is World Water Day and we are recognizing those stakeholders who are empowering young people to move the needle on environmental activism.
Empowering Young People to Move the Needle on Environmental Action
Remember Jennifer Borenius? In our October newsletter, WEforum featured Jennifer, owner of SoulShine Studios and founder of We are SURE, for her water and plastics activism. We particularly admired her willingness to look silly in the name of sustainability!
This year Jennifer is applying a two-pronged approach to environmental activism. First, she’s unpacking both environmentalism and activism into separate issues. In this way, she can work with WEforum’s Wise Up team and teach children in our community how to synthesize the two in order to make a larger impact. WEforum sat down with Jennifer to discuss the environment and the Wise Up team and their tireless efforts toward making the world a better place for future generations, one step at a time. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
“Sometimes you have to just be a little crazy and wear a blue onesie.”
In this digital age, cell phones and social media are powerful tools, but in order to affect real change, Jennifer wants young people to put down their phones and ACTIVELY ENGAGE in their communities. Several years ago, the mayor of Little Silver told Jennifer that they would never initiate a ban on plastics, and yet, that’s exactly what happened. She feels that climate change is a big, huge, ENORMOUS issue …… and in recent months she’s certainly watched an entire community take ownership of their own WASTE AND GARBAGE.
But there are still more environmental issues to tackle. For Jennifer, access to pure, safe water is a basic human right and a global right. But she understands that the water industry is making a fortune by leveraging our fear of contamination in order to market bottles of plastic convenience. It should be part of our humanity not to protect and treasure a resource that should be shared equitably amongst all living things, great and small.
Less FOMO (fear of missing out) and more ROMO (Relationships On, Media Off)
Changing the environment requires ACTIVE engagement. WEforum’s Wise Up teens want to empower young people in the community to become change agents, to ACT and not just TALK. Jennifer and Carolyn DeSena, both Wise Up teen leaders, are expanding their messaging and collaborating with WiseUp teens, heading into the schools and educating kids to put down their phones, get to know each other and engage with the pressing environmental issues of our time. This awareness needs to lead to BIGGER changes because we’re running out of time and just talking about it isn’t getting us very far.
Today’s environmental influencers are teenagers! Even this year’s World Economic Forum Summit in Davos hosted ten notable water activists and changemakers…and they were all teenagers! Activism begins with engagement, and many of these young people are taking on the environment by building real relationships with relevant stakeholders. Wise Up team members are engaging with students as ambassadors, addressing social media issues and, behind the scenes, working with school administrators and athletic directors to eliminate plastics, water bottles and energy drinks during training and games.
These young people are creating momentum as part of a dynamic movement that is gaining traction across the state, the country and the world. They are part of a larger trend of youth-led movements, some of them political, like the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter and the National School Walkout movements. And some of them are environmental, most notably Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism. These are young people are all grappling with urgent issues because maybe the grown-ups aren’t moving fast enough in this direction. And they’re a force to be reckoned with!