This is a milestone year for Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Awards as the program marks its tenth year of honoring exceptional environmental leaders. In the last decade, the Brower Youth Awards have recognized 61 teenage and 20-something activists for their achievements, given away more than $165,000 in prizes to awardees, granted nearly $70,000 to an additional 120 youth to support new initiatives, and reached more than 20 million people with the stories of youth activism.
The 2009 awardees continue in the tradition of bold activism for an ecologically just and sustainable future.
Crane-Murdoch is a co-founder of Power Past Coal, which organized grassroots activists to commit to publicizing or coordinating at least one action protesting coal every day for the first 100 days of President Obama’s administration. Tens of thousands of citizens participated in marches, lobby days, rallies, town hall meetings, and acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. During the course of the project, more than 20 new coal plant permits and five mountaintop removal applications were denied or suspended, while the EPA committed to regulating carbon dioxide from coal plants and coal ash from slurry ponds.
In 2008, Shivakumar co-founded Project Jatropha, an organization dedicated to promoting the plant Jatropha curcas as an ecologically friendly and economically profitable crop among the farmers of rural India. After converting Jatropha seeds into biofuel, Indian farmers tested it in their irrigation pumps. The results were clear: The biofuel burned cleaner than the diesel that had previously been used. Convinced, farmers planted Jatropha seedlings Shivakumar purchased using money he earned by winning a 2006 spelling bee.
Bryan lives close to the world’s largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon and most abundant source of fresh water: the boreal forest of Canada. While completing his degree at University of Winnipeg, Bryan led the campaign against the logging taking place in the East Shore Wilderness Area in Manitoba, a provincial park. He organized rallies, spoke with elected officials, and energized volunteers to write and send letters to the government. In 2008, Bryan was rewarded for his efforts when Manitoba banned logging at four of the five affected provincial parks.
Loorz first saw Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth when he was 12 years old. Inspired by the message, Loorz wrote to Gore’s organization and applied to be one of its trainers, but was turned down on account of his age. Undeterred, he created his own presentation about global warming and delivered it more than 30 times. Eventually Loorz was invited to Al Gore’s training, and he became the youngest presenter of the Inconvenient Truth message. He has gone on to give 75 presentations to more than 10,000 people and founded his own nonprofit, Kids vs. Global Warming, to educate youth on the science of climate change and empower them to take action.
Lopez grew up in an area lacking access to fresh, organic, or local produce. She helped create the Roots of Change community garden, which at the time of its creation in the summer of 2007 was the only urban garden in San Antonio. The goal is to provide healthy food at no cost, serve as an educational center, and create a positive space for community involvement. The garden hosts training sessions, student work days, and Texas-style barbeques, where community members can come together to enjoy a meal and take home locally grown produce.
Hai Vo co-founded the Real Food Challenge (RFC) at the University of California at Irvine. The RFC is dedicated to reallocating the $4 billion spent annually on food at colleges and universities to “real” food – food that is ecologically sound, community-based, humane, and fair. The RFC at Irvine has engaged more than 500 campus and community members in leadership development, networking convergences, dinners, roundtable events, educational series, and online networks, all centered around sustainable food systems. The RFC has also worked with the University of California to develop a system-wide institutional commitment to 20 percent real food procurement by 2020.
To reserve a free ticket for the 2009 awards ceremony in San Francisco, visit: broweryouthawards.org.
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