Young? Green? Patriotic?

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If we can agree that two of the biggest problems we face in America today are global warming and the virtually complete absence of America’s youth from the political process, then I think we can also agree that the Civil Society Institute and Youth Service America announcing the second round of their Red, White & Green Climate Change Grants is definitely a big deal. Essentially, this opportunity offers grants of $500 to young people in the United States between the ages of 15-25 who are concerned about global warming, and also to groups that engage that same demographic with the topic. The goal is to enable them to develop and implement a service-learning project about climate change that involves their community, policy-makers and candidates running for election in both 2007 and 2008. Ultimately, the Red, White & Green campaign focuses on building the political voices of America’s youth, their ideas about how to solve the problems created by global warming, the fact that they indeed have the most at stake, and the idea that those with the power to act now on a political level just may learn something from listening to them.

So what exactly can $500 accomplish this coming year to get students motivated enough to help stop global warming, while raising the issue on a broader scale politically and engaging their peers in the process at the same time? Well, last years grantees came up with some incredible ideas such as the 25 students at the High School for Environmental Studies in NYC who wrote and staged a 3-act play to address myths, government practices, and "what you can do" in relation to climate change. They incorporated the political process by inviting candidates running for election to speak at the performance, and then they made sure that their play was videotaped so that it can be used as a teaching tool in their school for years to come... Then there are the students in Charlotte, NC, who worked after school to educate younger kids about climate change. They helped show them how easy it is for each child to make a difference by conducting a simple science experiment to compare the energy consumption of an incandescent light bulb to that of a fluorescent bulb, one of my favorite things by far... Each of them then wrote to their mayor telling him why they are concerned about global warming and urging him to join the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement before they attended their local Candidate Forum to ask candidates questions about their plans to address climate change.

And finally, just 50 students in Hawaii aimed to reach over 22,000 people by carrying out a public education campaign to reduce dependence on non-renewable oil energy and culminating in an event that offered 10 simple actions that everyone can do to reduce their energy consumption, public lectures by experts, live music, a petition advocating that their university convert to solar energy, and featuring smoothies made of local fruit by a blender run on muscle power (wired to a bicycle) for sale at nominal cost so they could send the proceeds to school administrators along with the petition to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. They even invited candidates running for local office in 2006 to the event and offered them the opportunity to address the gathering on their stance on climate change. What more can we ask for from $500 than that?

So how can the ambitious and savvy TreeHugger take part? Well, for starters you can apply for a grant by heading here; and while it’s certainly ok for applicants to be working in conjunction with adults, the projects should clearly be youth-led and must take place between May 1 and October 31, 2007. All grant proposals must be received by March 9, 2007 at 5pm EST. So don’t just sit there… Go for it!

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