Saturday, September 29, 2018

Engaging the Next Generation


OK. I realize that my enthusiasm for sustainability sounds like the ramblings of Charlie Brown's teacher to my teenage son. (Perhaps even a bit more strident...)

My boys squawk at the idea of carrying out the rinse water to irrigate our edible plants. In their defense, they weren't raised in a sustainable household. During my past marriage, we did some half-hearted recycling and that was as far as it went.

So how do you get apathetic teens interested in sustainable living? Looking back at my youth, I recall how I absolutely HATED picking green beans on my Nana's farm. But her legacy lovingly hangs over me as I tend my own little desert garden. So who knows? There may be hope for my boys.

A teachable moment presented itself when Dan and I had to go away for a long weekend. The boys generously agreed to water our yard and garden while we were away. I took the opportunity to not only give them directions, but to explain - in detail - why we do what we do. They seemed a little distracted at the time. Josh was texting his girlfriend... But we came home to thriving plants. (And a pile of dog shit, but that's another story.) I'm not sure this had much of an impact on their lives - yes, I'm still the one taking out the sink water- but hopefully it planted the seeds. Joshua admitted later that he had actually enjoyed being out in nature. Jeremy shared a story on how he saw a scruffy coyote staring hungrily at the squirrels on the other side of our garden fence. (Yes, those are the same squirrels that perch on the back wall ready to pounce on my beloved tomatoes the minute they turn red.) Of course, I'm glad the little critters are alright!

Recently, another opportunity to reach my youngest son presented itself. Since graduating high school, Jeremy has been doggedly persuing his passion for stand-up comedy. He hits a different open mic every night. I found a way to use this interest to get him to research sustainable principles. I invited him to MC Sustainable Tucson's impromptu storytelling activity "Tales of the Future" at our tent at Discover Local Day. He has to come up with four sample stories on the theme of "Tucson's sustainable future." Sure, this is nepotism. But it's worth it. I am so proud of him for rising to the challenge. He may never become another Brad Lancaster, but he has already come up with some pretty funny shit.

You can enjoy Jeremy' s comic stylings at:

Discover Local Day (during TENWEST) in the Tucson Museum of Art courtyard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 14th. This is the same day as Tucson Meet Yourself (which will be held around Jacome Plaza in front of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library downtown). So grab something yummy to eat and then come see Jeremy and the other participants telling stories about Tucson's sustainable future.

Yes, sometimes it can feel discouraging that more of our teens aren't getting on board with fighting climate change (UA Students for Sustainability and Compost Cats are exceptions of course.) But this success with Jeremy inspired me to reach out to other teens by using their personal interests.

The Sustainable Tucson organizing team needed to come up with some activities for our tent at Discover Local Day. After participating in Living Streets Alliance's community hearings on Complete Streets, I was inspired to do an activity on "Planning your Neighborhood." Instead of taking a crack at it myself, I invited Changemaker High School art students to design and make it. Their principal was delighted that the students would learn about complete, walkable streets while honing their critical thinking skills. Last night at their open house, a young woman was excited to show off her work on the project. Gotta admit that made my day! 

Stop by and see Changemaker student's interactive display "Planning your Neighborhood" and the comic stylings (nepotism alert) of my son, Jeremy Segal, at Discover Local Day. (Details above.)

Some Changemaker High School artists will be running their activity at TENWEST's Tactical Urbanism Block Party from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 20th at 7th Street and 6 Avenue (near EXO coffee).

I'm sure these teens will inspire you the way they inspire me.

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