6 Child Environmentalists That Have Already Changed the World

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Sometimes it takes the simple clarity of a child to change the world as we know it.

Among all the social change, political maneuvering, and serious issues facing the environment today, there are plenty of savvy kids taking matters into their own hands: Coming up with plans to save countless gallons of water in their cities, tackling Mcdonalds, fighting to stop mountaintop removal mining, raising money for Gulf Coast relief efforts, and more.

1. Caitlyn Larsen

Ten-year-old Caitlyn Larsen of Orogrande, New Mexico, was just one of the locals who got an uneasy feeling when she saw a new hole, filled with mining equipment, in the side of a mountain -- but she was also one of the most vocal.

Caitlyn sent out a press release to draw attention to the environmental devastation that the mining effort would leave in its wake. The release caught the attention of the director of the New Mexico mining and Mineral Division, who checked a little further into the operation and found that the company behind the mine was "less than above the board."

The company was forced to withdraw and the mountain is still standing.

2. Birke Baehr

Video: TED

For most 11-year-olds, the most important thing about food is that it be free of vegetables, fried if possible, and pizza when available.

But Birke Baehr isn't most 11-year-olds: He's an organic food activist that speaks out to encourage kids and adults to avoid industrially-farmed food, genetically modified foods, pesticides, and herbicides.

"A while back I wanted to be an NFL football player, but now I want to be an organic farmer instead," he has said -- and he knows just how to address skeptics who say organic is too expensive: "We can either pay the farmer or we can pay the hospital."

3. Olivia Bouler

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Olivia Bouler

While most kids -- and most adults -- wrung their hands in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and wondered what we could do to make sure it didn't happen again, 11-year-old Olivia Bouler was thinking a little more immediately.

A lifelong bird-lover, Olivia partnered with the Audubon Society to sell off original sketches of the avian members most affected by the spill, and raised more than $200,000 for Gulf Coast relief efforts.

This year, on the anniversary of the spill, she also released a book -- proof positive that putting yourself to work will get you a whole lot further than hand-wringing.

4. Cole Rasenberger

Video: The Dogwood Alliance/YouTube Cole Rasenberger was just 8 years old when he began his first effort to save the coastal forests of his native North Carolina: He asked the Dogwood Alliance for help, and got his entire elementary school student body to send postcards to fast food companies requesting that they switch to recycled packaging.

The plan worked for one company -- McDonalds -- and now that he's tasted success, Cole is on an even bigger mission. He branched out to 7 other elementary schools nearby and collected more than 6,000 signed postcards -- and then drove (with his mom) to hand deliver them to KFC headquarters.

The 10-year-old wasn't as successful this time: As a response from KFC, he got a tour of the museum and a $5 gift card. (Don't give up, Cole!)

5. Mason Perez

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VanDammeMaarten.be/Creative Commons

Nine-year-old Mason Perez was eating a hot dog at the baseball field -- like any kid -- when he stopped by the bathroom to wash his hands of ketchup, mustard, and whatever else 9-year-olds get on their hands at the baseball field.

The water came out so fast that he turned it down halfway -- and when he realized that less pressure didn't impede his ability to clean his hands, he was inspired to use that discovery as a jumping off point for his science fair project. He tested valves at residences and businesses all over town, saving between 6 and 25 percent of the water by turning down the pressure.

6. Ashton Stark

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Ashton Stark

Though he was still two years away from driving, 14-year-old Ashton Stark wasn't about to wait to cut his family's carbon footprint: He took his grandfathers VW Beetle -- a 1972 model -- and outfitted it with nine golf cart batteries that allow the car to travel as far as 50 miles for 10 cents in electricity.

The clean-running car can go as fast as 45 miles per hour -- which isn't very fast when you're a brand new driver (then again, maybe that's what made his parents hop on board with the project).