Learning From our Youth

From the look of it, Erich Christian has a long career in alternative energy ahead of him. He’s already designed a biofuel manufacturing plant and been given a contract to provide fuel for his local school district. In addition, he was appointed to a governmental committee exploring alternative energy ideas for future implementation. At this rate, by the time he graduates high school, he’ll probably have a few patents! Read the full story here.

It’s so great to see young people, traditionally treated as somehow separate from the world in which we all live, getting into the action with alternative energy. As they say, the beginner has many techniques, the expert few. If we want to find a simple solution to our world’s problems, we will have to trust the power and relative idealism of young minds. I like also the idea of the Aquaduct, created by what appear to be several college students. The bike holds two tanks of water, enough water for a family of four’s daily needs, which are manually filtered by the pedaling action of the bike. This allows women to eliminate hours of walking to water supplies in nations without a reliable water system. Brilliant, simple, elegant. The young women behind BioTour, a vegetable powered school bus that tours the country sharing knowledge about WVO, are barely out of college. In fact it was a college road trip to Burning Man in Southern California that led them to their calling. And some parents don’t think concerts are constructive learning opportunities!

As students, we keep our minds open to the possibility that we do not know. This is what allows us to learn new things. The greatest failing of our corporate system today is that we produce “experts” rather than students. As such, people feel little need to make breakthroughs when they are already supposed to be the final word. Students, on the other hand, have two valuable attributes: they have a lot of unrefined ideas, and they don’t know any better than to think they all might work. Through the fortuitous combination of the two, revolutionary breakthroughs become possible and even occasionally get implemented. Our world’s experts, meanwhile, are often encouraged to focus on what they already “know” to be true.

2008

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the current generation brings to the power debate. Motivated by a sense of financial and environmental urgency, today’s young people are realizing they may have to create the future they need, rather than trust that the current power structure to provide it. A beautiful example of this is happening this week (September 11-13) in Los Angeles. The PeaceJams Conference invites 14 to 25 year old attendees to join six Nobel Peace Prize winners in a brainstorming workshop about the future of our world. The three day event is intensely focused on creating solutions to environmental and social problems, and the only way to get in if you’re over 25 is to bring three age-appropriate people with you. Especially cool is the goal of implementing a billion “acts of peace” in the next ten years as a result of this conference. I never thought I’d wish to be 18 again! Here’s the skinny on the event and how to register.

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