Parents want their teenagers engaged in positive extracurricular activities. If your kids are playing sports, acting in the school play, writing for a newspaper, or participating in student government, they are less likely to be drinking, smoking, and otherwise getting in trouble. Good parents cultivate their children's interests.
Most parents whose child has signed up for Al Gore's new initiative, Inconvenient Youth, are likely pleased that junior has taken an interest in an important policy issue. Far better to ruminate about ways to improve the environment than to waste time playing video games or watching Jersey Shore reruns on MTV.
Yet parents might want to pay a bit of extra attention to their child's new hobby: blogging about environmentalism may be harmless, but your child deserves to know that a lot of what they are being told about climate change has no more basis in reality than The Hills.
The Inconvenient Youth website describes the initiative as “a community of teenagers taking action to address the climate crisis.” It’s a new twist on Al Gore's other nonprofit, Climate Project, which has trained thousands of volunteers to present the infamous slideshow featured in An Inconvenient Truth. And in fact, five lucky teens from Inconvenient Youth will be selected to take part in the Climate Project's training program and become certified presenters.
All Inconvenient Youth members (ages 13-18) are encouraged to share ideas about actions they can take to improve the environment. Teens have posted suggestions such as: “Help create gardens which use recycled materials and composters,” and “Picking [sic] up trash along the road. It is disgusting how many bottles and cans there are.” There’s also a big focus on educating others about environmentalism: teens discuss how to use the internet and social networking tools and approach teachers and other school officials about including global warming in their studies.
It’s harmless stuff, except that these teens are getting a very one-sided version of a complicated issue. After all, An Inconvenient Truth is hardly an unbiased documentary. A judge in the United Kingdom found numerous, significant scientific errors in the film, including that it exaggerates even the most dire predictions about global warming’s potential harm. Yet most students have accepted Al Gore’s perspective as undisputed fact: one study reported that three in four kids think global warming is a “a threat to all life on the planet,” and about two in three feel that global warming is “a threat to my future well-being and safety” and “feel afraid of what might happen.”