True Leaders in Service: Creating Positive Environmental Change

By Sean Russell April 18, 2017

Our planet’s environment faces many challenges. With nearly half of the world’s population under the age of 25, we’ve reached a critical point where we must engage and activate young leaders to work together to address these issues and help ensure a sustainable future for our planet. My time as a member of the Florida 4‑H program allowed me to learn first-hand about natural resources in my home state, and specifically gave me the unique opportunity to learn more about Florida’s marine ecosystems through a “Learning by Doing” approach.

Through programs like Florida 4‑H’s Marine Ecology Event, field trips with my local 4‑H club, and public presentations, I had the opportunity to learn at an early age how we’re all connected to the ocean no matter where we live. The 4‑H program provided me with a unique avenue to investigate the challenges facing our planet’s marine ecosystems, and in turn, work alongside my fellow 4‑H members and adult mentors to develop initiatives to engage my peers in playing an active role in protecting our blue planet. As a result, in 2008, I launched Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project to engage 4‑H’ers across the country in tackling the threats posed by marine debris and improperly disposed of fishing line. I later founded the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, a nationwide network of events to train and activate young conservation leaders.

These initiatives demonstrated to me the power and importance of youth and adults coming together to work collaboratively to protect our planet.

Since my time in 4‑H, I’ve had the pleasure of applying the lessons I learned through the 4‑H program to my work developing initiatives to engage youth as leaders in the fields of environmental conservation, education, and research with zoos and aquariums, conservation non-profits, and government agencies.

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Over the past year, I’ve teamed up with EarthEcho International to launch their inaugural Youth Leadership Council (YLC) – uniting an outstanding group of young conservation leaders to support EarthEcho’s work to inspire young people worldwide to act now for a sustainable future. EarthEcho International was established by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their father Philippe Cousteau Sr., and grandfather legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, on the belief that youth have the power to change the world. Through the YLC, young leaders have the opportunity to develop international campaigns to engage their peers in taking an active role in protecting the environment, support EarthEcho and its partners as they work to inspire, cultivate, and activate young leaders, and learn about the workings of an international non-profit organization.

I’m excited to share that applications for EarthEcho International’s Youth Leadership Council are now open as we plan to accept five new students from an international audience to join this program. As 4‑H members, I know you understand the important role that young people play in our communities, especially when it comes to environmental conservation. If this is an area of interest to you, I strongly encourage to apply to serve on the YLC by completing the online application by April 22, 2017. Click here to access the complete program details and application.

Together we have the power to positively impact our planet and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. I hope you’ll consider applying for the YLC! Thank you for your commitment to Making the Best Better in your communities and for our planet.