Gulf Coast Oil Spill #4: Teens

If you are wondering just how bad things really are in the Gulf see this ABC news report. Philippe Cousteau (Jacque’s grandson) calls it a “nightmare.”

Transocean is holding a memorial today for those who died in the Deepwater Horizon in Jackson, Miss. .

People have died.  The US government is now calling it the worst oil spill ever.

While most adults seem to be taking this in stride, rationally calculating the ratio of a country’s need for oil to the spill’s impact, many kids feel defiant and betrayed.  This is their planet.  As they watch adult authority figures still unable to stop the flow of oil into the ocean, cynicism molds childhood laughter in a wary grimace, the dull mask of survival.  They believe that the world they know may be coming to an end, and sometimes, as one adolescent explained, “it is simpler to just harden up and ice over.”

Another young man said, “The subdued reaction to this crisis makes everything seem very false. As long as everyone around us denies that these things are happening, we tag along: the as-if generation in an as-if world.”

Three teenagers from New York City’s Upper West Side, however, tried something different.  This is their story and here is their petition.

When JS first read about the oil spill he tore his pillowcase in half, pounding his fists into his mattress. Then he brooded. He complained about the government and the oil industry to friends and family, to anyone who would listen.   When a friend’s parent urged him to think practically, he squeezed his fists, his face red and taut, and lashed out.  As the news worsened, he decided to take action.  Enlisting the help of his sister, LS, and friend, AD, they decided to start a petition to President Obama and to raise money for NRDC.

How?  They held a bake sale along Amsterdam Avenue in NYC, next to a street fair. On a cloudy day with rain threatening to leak from the sky, they stood among shops,  and booths from the fair.  While some retailers yelled, “Sale! Sale!”, these kids spoke softly about the environment.  Almost 200 cookies, 5 pies and over a gallon of lemonade later they collected $595.76 in their Tupperware shoebox.  And they received 197 signatures on their petition. They donated the money to NRDC to support their efforts to stop more offshore drilling. The petition is for President Obama and is now available online.

AD said, ” I kept wondering if doing something like this wasn’t cool but it felt right and so then the coolness stopped mattering.”

LS added, ” A visiting family from Louisiana came by and they couldn’t believe we were doing this, like we were doing it for them.”

LS had worked all morning encouraging pedestrians to participate by signing the petition or buying baked goods.  Then she ran to a dance recital.  As soon as it was over she was back at the table selling people on her cause, ” Please help the people and animals of the Gulf Coast. Let’s stop offshore drilling.”

One neighborhood resident said, “Seeing those kids woke me up a bit.  I’ve been not wanting to think about the oil spill- such a disaster – it, and then realized, what is wrong with me?! This is important. We all need to do something.”

When they were down to the last pie, JS implored passers-by to make a final contribution. Most walked by, too busy and preoccupied.  Those who slowed down and stopped, however, ended up thinking and often emptying their wallets.  The last pie went to a rabbi.

Surrounded by merchants trying to make a profit, the three teens tried to make a difference.

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