Photo by Brian Merchant
This has to be the most inspiring story I've stumbled upon out of all my coverage of the Gulf spill: Last night, at a tense town hall-style meeting that gathered fishermen, federal officials, and BP reps to discuss the latest on the disaster, one participant took all of the parties by surprise. A 14-year old girl named Lauren Spaulding confidently stepped up to the mic during the Q+A -- the only young person to do so -- and confronted BP about its lack of initiative to educate children about the spill.
Spaulding was polite but direct when she asked BP what it was doing to educate young people about the spill or to provide teaching materials to schools, and she quickly won over the crowd. She pointed out that kids are concerned about the spill too, and want to learn more about what's going on and how they can help. They're worried about the environment and their parents' livelihoods, she said.
BP isn't doing anything in the education arena at all, of course -- but that could now change, thanks to Spaulding. Lisa Garcia, a Senior Advisor in the EPA, was one of the federal officials attending the meeting. She was particularly impressed by the young girl's advocacy, and said that providing local schools with educational materials on the Gulf spill was a great idea -- and that she now planned on starting up such a program. I confirmed with Ms. Garcia after the meeting that she would indeed be doing so. BP would likely be responsible for funding the effort.
If that's not inspiring, I don't know what is -- thanks to a bright idea, and some serious gumption, this girl has kick started an effort that could better educate kids around the Gulf. I caught up with Spaulding after the meeting was over, and spoke with her about her interest in the Gulf spill:
I have to say, that after a week spent watching officials dodge questions, news roll in about the potential damage to wildlife, and leak containment efforts get bungled, seeing this young woman ask that her peers receive proper education about the spill -- and inspiring real change so they get it -- gave me some much-needed hope that some good can come out of this disaster.
See also: 70,000 Barrels or 5,000? What Did BP Know and When Did They Know It?
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