For 26 years the Earth Guardians have been working to amplify the voices of the world’s youth in the environmental and social justice movements. What started as a single school initiative in Maui, Hawaii, has grown to encompass 44 different countries, inspiring and empowering tens of thousands of young people to stand up for their future, to fight for their planet.
Now based in Boulder, this youth-powered nonprofit is educating a new generation of activists approaching climate change as a social justice issue. They’ve sued the Trump administration over the approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, advocated for municipalizing Boulder’s energy grid and even helped establish a moratorium on fracking. Recently, a group of Earth Guardians’ youth plaintiffs sued the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for failing to consider public health and the environment in its rulemakings. Known as the “Martinez Case,” the lawsuit made it all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court before getting shot down in January 2019.
Despite the loss, the Earth Guardians are still forging on, fighting against climate change. And soon they’ll have a techy new environmental tool to spread their message: the EarthTracks app.
EarthTracks, the Earth Guardians latest environmental innovation, is set to debut in over 20,000 classrooms across the country this February. It will connect groups of young environmentalists around the world, helping people achieve more sustainable lifestyles and expanding the Earth Guardians’ network of activists.
“It’s really the first step that we’ve been able to take to aggregate data to look at our impact,” says Tamara Roske, the visionary director of the Earth Guardians. “[EarthTracks] will allow us to bring people together, to give people a way that they can take action and engage.”
Roske describes the app as essentially a fitness tracker for the planet. It’s a tool designed to incentivize sustainable choices and encourage environmentally conscious lifestyles in communities, in schools and among individuals; a means for plotting one’s environmental impacts and committing to actions to reduce them.
“You can set up reminders to take these actions,” says Roske. Reminders will prompt users to bring a travel mug instead of using a paper coffee cup, or bike instead of drive. “And then it calculates how much of an environmental impact you’re having.”
Individuals can track their own environmental impacts, and so can Earth Guardian “crews,” which is one of the most important aspects of the app, according to Roske. Earth Guardians has over 250 of these “youth-led groups of mobilized leaders” spread out across the globe. A crew can be a family, a school, a group of friends, a business or an entire community. They are the activists, artists and musicians that are out there driving action, fueling the cultural shift toward a sustainable future.
“The app is definitely youth-driven,” explains Roske. It was developed in coordination with young people, for young people, she says. It gamifies environmentalism in engaging and exciting ways. For example, Earth Guardians worked in partnership with Amplifier — an organization that seeks to amplify grassroots movements through iconic visual art — which has worked with campaigns such as March for Our Lives, The Women’s March, We The People and Power to the Polls.
The app will supplement a series of lesson plans in the participating classrooms that approach climate change through the lens of social justice. These unconventional lesson plans use art, storytelling, peer-to-peer engagement and open conversation to inspire climate action and activism and to cultivate sustainable mindsets.
When the app goes live, some half-million kids between the sixth and 12th grades will embark on their own Earth Guardian adventure, each school forming its own crew. They will commit to actions to reduce or minimize their environmental footprint — such as eating less meat, using less water or driving less. From there on, the app tracks the crew’s progress, awarding points for sustainable choices.
The EarthTracks app also represents a new and comprehensive way for Earth Guardians to streamline crew training. It will allow them to compile data from all their crews around the world, so different groups and individuals can see what kinds of environmental impacts they’re having on the planet, and so that the Earth Guardians can track progress toward sustainability. It will allow crews to share information more easily than before and to collaborate with other crews around the world.
“The big vision is that we all become Earth Guardians and we change our relationship with the Earth,” says Roske. “And we do it by how we live our lifestyles, how we teach our kids, how we empower each other and our leaders.”