Eight years ago, a 13-year-old California boy named Alec Loorz watched the movie An Inconvenient Truth, and it changed him. He couldn’t stop researching the effects of climate change, what was being done and what could be done, to stop it. With his mother he founded iMatter, an organization to get youth involved in helping stop climate change.
Larry Kraft, iMatter executive director and St. Louis Park resident, says that since its inception the organization has gained steam, and in 2011, they held a series of iMatter marches on the same day in 200 cities in more than 40 countries to spread awareness.
“Alec’s message is twofold,” Kraft says. “One is, ‘Look, as youth, we can change the world because people will listen to us,’; the second is, because people will listen, it’s a responsibility for our generation to do it.”
After Loorz stepped back from the organization to go to college, Kraft got involved. He left his job in tech running sales and marketing two and a half years ago to focus on climate change, after thinking about the future for his own two kids, 11 and 9. “I realized that this issue more than any other is going to impact the kind of world they have to live in.”
He started working for iMatter and had the idea for a campaign to get youth involved. He helped launch iMatter Now, a partnership with St. Louis Park High School’s environmental club Roots & Shoots. Junior Jayne Stevenson is a club member and she’s also on the St. Louis Park Environment and Sustainability Commission, which is how she met Kraft. They established the partnership with the purpose of focusing on local change and trying to get St. Louis Park to be emission-free by 2040.
“[iMatter Now] is a series of tools to hold the city accountable,” Kraft says, and it’s entirely student-run. Kraft is simply there to give them the tools they need.
“I think this is really good for Roots & Shoots because it’s going to take us to the next level,” junior Emily Doss says. “It’s getting involved with the city and making us more than just your typical environmental high school club.”
“Connecting with the city has been really good, I think, for both them and us,” Stevenson adds. “It’s good for us to work with the people who are actually going to make the change.”
This spring, the students will give the city a report card on how well it’s doing on climate change. Questions include:
- Is there a good climate action plan in place? What level of emissions will we get to over what time?
- What portion of our energy comes from renewable resources?
- Is the amount of waste we’re sending to landfills going down?
- Are we reducing carbon in the atmosphere?
- Does this city have a youth council to help make climate related policies?
In the meantime, Roots & Shoots will be circulating a petition around the school that simply says “We care what happens to our planet,” to let the council know youth are concerned. The group has also recently secured a presentation of the Youth Climate Report Card to St Louis Park City Council – Monday March 21st at 7:30pm at St Louis Park city hall.
The pilot program is taking place in 10 other cities around the country, which allows students to converse with other high schoolers to see what’s working.
Junior Owen Geier, who has been active in the campaign, explains why the cause is important to him. He’s traveled to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with his family. “I want my kids to be able to experience that as well, and if we don’t do something, it might not be there.”
Climate Generation is proud to partner with iMatter to support high school leadership on climate change solutions.