April 26, 2010 12:00 PM

GLOBAL WARMING

ALEC LOORZ, 15

Alec Loorz seems like an ordinary California boy who loves surfing and playing the drums. And giving PowerPoint presentations on global warming. Watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth “changed my life,” says the Ventura tenth grader. Only 12 when he saw the documentary, he then applied to become one of the 3,125 presenters trained to give Gore’s slideshow. But “they rejected me. Apparently I was too young to make a change.” Undeterred, he forged his own group, Kids vs. Global Warming; started giving keynote speeches at youth conferences (“I didn’t even know what ‘keynote’ meant,” he admits); and developed an iPhone application to help kids who want to protect the environment. Locally, he convinced the city of Ventura to erect 9-ft.-tall poles along the beach to show where the coast would be submerged if, say, Greenland’s glaciers were to melt. Impressed by his efforts, Gore’s organization let Alec, then 14, become the youngest person to present their lecture, which he’s now given 150 times in seven states. “Alec felt called to do it,” says his mom, Victoria, who helps Alec run the nonprofit. Of course, she’s his mom. What really thrilled him was getting a letter from his idol. “Your tireless commitment,” Al Gore wrote to Alec last year, “will make a real difference.”

NO IDLING CARS

SALT LAKE SIXTH GRADERS

After recess was repeatedly canceled due to poor air quality, some sixth graders at Morningside Elementary School got mad. “We couldn’t even go for a walk!” says Tressa Marré, 11. “We decided we had to do something.” They learned that Salt Lake City, set in a basin amid the Wasatch mountains, is a trap for smog, about half of which is caused by car emissions-and idling is a major culprit. Why did grown-ups need to just sit in their cars anyway? The students met with State Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, who suggested they research and draft an anti-idling resolution-which they did, working after school and on weekends for three months. “They jumped at the chance to get involved,” says their teacher Patti White. One student, Alex Miller, even made a video featuring a “Don’t Idle” song written by Morningside alum Zachary Adamson, 15. Last month the Utah legislature passed the resolution, which has led to signage at schools, airports and other high-idling zones instructing drivers to turn off their engines after 15 seconds if they’re not moving. “They were able to accomplish more in terms of changing behavior than a lot of adult groups,” says Moss. “It’s so simple and so easy to do. Why wouldn’t you do it?” asks Chloe Garner, 12. “We all want cleaner air.”

REVERSING DEFORESTATION

CHANGE THE WORLD KIDS, VERMONT

Jenny Koch, 16, loves getting her hands dirty, especially if it means spending the afternoon planting trees with her friends. “It makes me happy knowing I’m helping the environment,” she says. The tenth grader from Killington, Vt., is spearheading the local reforesting effort of Change the World Kids, a volunteer organization founded in 1998 by then-9-year-old twins Phebe and Nika Meyers. Working with 40 middle and high schoolers, Jenny is focused on sprucing up the summer home of warblers, thrushes and flycatchers-songbirds whose numbers have been declining due to a loss of habitat in Central America and New England. To date, the group has raised over $190,000 and helped plant 5,300 trees in Costa Rica and Vermont, with another 10,000 or so planned for this year. Says Roxanne Bogart, a wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife: “They’re really passionate about helping the environment. It’s inspiring to see.” It’s hard work, both raising funds and helping new trees take root. “People find it surprising that it’s actually fun,” says Jenny. “And you feel good about yourself.”

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