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Nepalese school-children embrace World Environment Day at the forest of Gokarna, near Kathmandu. (Photograph by Narendra Shrestha, epa/Corbis)

Generation Next: The World’s Young Eco Warriors

The days of children waiting around for grown-ups to save the planet are over. Nowadays, they’re taking conservation action into their own hands.

Consider Olivia and Carter Ries from Fayetteville, Georgia. At ages 7 and 8, with help from their father, they started OMG, shorthand for One More Generation. Their peer-to-peer organization empowers children to become environmental leaders, with a focus on endangered species.

“If we do not do something today to save the rhino, it will become extinct in my lifetime,” says Carter, now 13.

“We travel around the world to mobilize children to save nature,” adds Olivia, who at 12 also confided to me that “age discrimination” is a problem they contend with.

Tempting as it is for adults to chuckle about their seriousness, homeschooled Olivia and Carter are five years into propelling a kids movement. And they are not alone:

  • In Australia, nine-year-old Ava McQueen spoke at the 2014 World Parks Congress last November, where she introduced her idea for “Party Like a Wild Animal” fundraising events.
  • In Costa Rica, Janine Licare and Aislin Livingstone launched Kids Saving the Rainforest when they were nine years old. More than 15 years later, the group spearheads efforts in 18 countries, from encouraging school projects to building monkey bridges.

Obviously, kids cannot do everything on their own. But passionate advocates of all ages can raise environmental awareness to new heights.

This piece, written by Costas Christ, first appeared in the May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow him on Twitter @costaschrist.

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