A Little Child Will Lead Them

This Great Idea came from Sarah Lawrence, parent of Giulia Grace, 12-year-old respondent to Larry Rasmussen at EcoFaith Summit 2024: Cross+Currents in the Flood: Building Arcs Together for a Livable Planet.

Sarah said, ‘Now we need to do something.’

This, after Giulia Grace spoke eloquently and passionately about the dire state of our planet and the climate crisis that is already overwhelming us in planetary changes.

The ‘something’ Lawrence proposed was starting a group at school that was in regular contact with local political figures: school boards, city councils, DNR officials, commissioners, planners, etc., asking them to keep the youth updated on policies and decisions that would in any way affect the planet – and therefore young peoples’ futures.

The group would center around consistently reminding elected officials and policy-makers about the need to think not only in terms of finances or short-term ‘needs’ or ‘gains’, but long-range and seemingly abstract concerns, like the sustainability of the planet, future human generations, the ability of all living things to thrive, and the intrinsic rights of nature.

Young people would regularly write letters and create phone chains declaring their support or rejection of policies and decisions as they came up, underscoring their positions with relevant data, pertinent emotional responses, and frequent reminders of rights, privileges, and needs of younger and future generations.

The group’s mission might be along the lines of environmental accountability for all local, regional, state-wide, and even federal officials, with an eye to sustainability, equity for all humans, and equal rights for nature in decision-making.

I’ll expand on this excellent idea and suggest that congregations might support students in creating such a group in their schools. Few young people will have the knowledge-base necessary for accessing elected officials, knowing which offices and bodies to connect with, and how to launch phone or letter campaigns. A few caring adults – especially any who are already working in the school system and/or especially those with a heart for climate care – can make this learning much more accessible.

Congregations might also make their space available for after school or weekend gatherings of this group. The idea here is not to get kids in the building to proselytize, but to support their essential work of self-determination, environmental advocacy, and justice skill-building. Invite vetted/background-checked adults to supervise, support, encourage, connect with resources, etc. Provide the group with food, technology and other resources, and mindfulness or contemplative practices to support their spiritual and mental well-being.

This Great Idea serves to support young advocates, their mental (and spiritual) health (mindfulness practices, active engagement, and supportive adults go a long way!), and may blossom into more positive futures for all.