Climate change threatens everything we love in Hawaii, but it’s Hawaii’s youth who will face the biggest brunt of our changing climate. That’s why students across the state are taking action, fueled by passion, powered by youth, and driven by the urgent need for change. These young trailblazers aren’t waiting for tomorrow to take action today. On this episode of Empowered, we’re spotlighting some inspiring young minds, who are tackling our planets most pressing issues, and getting their hands dirty to make a difference. From grass roots movements to revolutionary innovations, let’s discover how the youth are paving a path to a sustainable future one action at a time. 

Jeff visits Healthy Climate Communities out on Oahu’s Windward side to speak with Executive Director Lisa Marten, to learn how they’re being good stewards of the land to help preserve and protect the wetland habitat of Hamakua Marsh for endangered birds. With the help of local schools and community groups, Lisa and her team are restoring the habitat on the hillside of Puu o Ehu by clearing invasive species and planting native trees and plants. 

On Oahu’s South Shore, Kelly stops at Kupu to learn about the programs they offer to youth, particularly their Aina Corps program. Starting in 2020 in response to the pandemic job crisis, Kupu created the Aina Corp program to assist young adults who graduated into the pandemic job market to work in jobs that gave back to the environment and invested in diversifying the economy — like conservation and sustainable agriculture. Current member of the program, Nicolai Phocus, shares his experience and how they aligned him with Hawaii’s top leading environment-focused organizations. 

Over at Iolani School, Jeff and Kelly speak with three brilliant 11th graders who are tackling Hawaii’s climate crisis head-on. Chisato and Audrey’s summer project focused on modeling carbon emissions based off zoning designations in Honolulu, discovering that there is an inverse correlation between the two. Logan is fighting mosquito population by introducing male mosquitos, which don’t bite, with a bacteria that when mated with females, prevents the eggs from hatching. 

With the predicted impacts of climate change, some of which we’re already seeing, it’s no wonder our youth are so driven to make a difference. The next generation isn’t sitting still, and so inspiring to learn about projects students are working on here in Hawaii. Not only getting their hands dirty out in the field, but working on some cutting-edge research that might inform future policy. They remind us that passion knows no age, and that each of us, young or old, has a part to play in securing the future of our planet.