How One Nonprofit Is Striving to Ensure the Right to Clean Water and Air
Advocacy Not all young people have the right to vote, but they do have the power to make a difference in the world. That’s the message of EarthEcho International, a nonprofit co-founded by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau.
Philippe Cousteau and his wife, Ashlan Gorse, are spearheading an effort to encourage youth to get involved in their communities to help ensure that everyone has access to clean air and water.
“What we really see is the power of young people, and what we’re all about is: ‘How do we inspire these people to be change agents and leaders today, not tomorrow?’” Phillippe says.
Starting with the youth
Through the organization’s Youth Leadership Council, people ages 15-22 are tasked with developing local environmental initiatives and then spreading the word to make that impact happen globally.
“We have a huge leadership council where we work with young people from around the world and provide training on how to take their advocacy to the next level,” says Phillippe. “We want to be a partner and not a controller to young people.”
He references one council member who launched a political campaign in Miami for solar panel installation, along with another in Australia who collaborated with an artist to repurpose and then sell plastic bags to donate back to the cause.
Spreading the word
The nonprofit has programs on workforce development in the STEM space and one of the world’s largest citizen-run water-quality programs. At the heart of EarthEcho’s mission, though, is conversation.
“It’s really important that we look to stop talking [only] amongst people who care about the environment, but also talk to those people who’ve never recycled or gone to the beach,” Ashlan says. “Talk to those people who voted against the environment, and get them engaged, because at the end of the day, this affects all of us. And when we can diversify the groups that talk about it, that’s when well really see change.”
Regardless of your age or how much you recycle, the Cousteaus say the understanding that every action counts is key.
“Every product you buy, every vote you cast — it all makes a difference,” Ashlan says.
Philippe adds, “Clean water and clean, healthy air are not givens that we can take for granted. We need to come together to solve these issues.”