Two Portland middle schoolers are fighting to address climate change. It's a fight to educate local students and lawmakers that's now being recognized around the world.
"We're the ones affected the most by climate change," said Jeremy Clark. "We have to do something."
Eighth graders Jeremy Clark and Charlie Abrams began their mission after Clark saw a cover of National Geographic Magazine.
"I was in the fourth grade and I saw this National Geographic Magazine and the picture on the front was the Statue of Liberty and she was up to her waist in water. It said this is the ice that melted," said Clark. "I thought, well I don't want that to happen."
The two decided to create their own blog they've named twogreenleaves.org. It's a website meant to teach their peers about climate change.
"We're analyzing the causes of climate change and how it affects the economy and the world and the people who live on it," said Abrams.
A lesson they soon realized was rather difficult to explain to their friends, after hearing their science teacher say this:
"He couldn't give his opinion on climate change because at that point it wasn't a fact, it was his opinion. He said he wanted to teach us the facts but couldn't," said Abrams.
Abrams spoke out at a Portland Public Schools Board meeting to change that. Ultimately, he did. Climate change is now taught as fact in all Portland Public Schools.
"So, now 60,000 kids can say that it's happening," said Abrams. "That's 80 public schools."
The boys have since testified in Salem on issues related to climate change and are now working with organizations like Renew Oregon, Our Climate and the Citizens Climate Lobby to raise awareness.
Efforts that caught the attention of the International Children's Climate Prize, initiated by a Swedish renewable energy company that gives out an annual award to children doing extraordinary things for the environment.
"They found out about us and reached out over the summer through blog," said Clark. "They chose us along with five other people from around the world to go to Sweden."
The boys were selected as finalists for that coveted award. They didn't win, but they've since made friends with all of the finalists and say they are now trying to figure out a way to make an even bigger difference together.
"The winner of the Children's Climate Prize, Edgar, melts plastic and mixes it with sand to make bricks," said Abrams. "His villages are getting washed away and he's helping people rebuild. While that's not happening here in Portland, what we do have is homelessness. If we take our plastics and do this, it can help get rid of litter and help the homeless population out."
And as if all that wasn't enough, the boys say they are now writing their own book.
"All of it is from a youth perspective, personally I haven't found any other climate science books written by people under 20, I don't know if they exist," said Abrams.
Soon, they hope to change that too.
"A lot of people are really hesitant about taking action on climate change," said Clark. "They put themselves in the mindset that one person can't make a difference. But, I think that once people start coming together, it's not a matter of what you're doing, it's everyone. Once you join in that everyone, you're really making a difference."
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