One More Generation:
Youth Making a Difference and Saving the World
Carter Ries, One More Generation
We travel the world and help save endangered species and we also educate others about plastic pollution and how it is harming our environment and us. I am going to briefly tell you about how we started and what you can do to help. If you want to get involved in any way, please visit our website at onemoregeneration.org.
Back in 2009, when I was 8 and Olivia was 7, our aunt was visiting South Africa and came across a rescue sanctuary, where they had many cheetahs and even African wild dogs. She decided to adopt two cheetahs in our names. My cheetah’s name is Diputsu (it means Dave in Africanz) and Olivia’s cheetah’s name is Tlala (it means Queen or Princess). When our aunt got home, she gave us our certificates and we loved it. But Olivia wondered why cheetahs needed to be adopted. My dad responded that if there weren’t sanctuaries, there might not be cheetahs when we have kids. She was so upset she started to cry. My dad tried to calm her down and told her that one day she could start a company to save endangered species like the cheetah. Being only 7 at the time, she thought my dad had said we could start a company soon.
Olivia and I both got excited about the idea; for the next few days, we kept bugging him about starting this company. When he kept saying we could start it when we got older, we started thinking he was pushing us off. Finally, he said that if we could study different endangered species for 14 days straight without having him remind us to do so, we could start the company right then. For the next two weeks, we researched all the species that were considered endangered and wrote down facts. By the tenth day, my mom pulled my dad to the side and said she was noticing that every time we learned a new fact about a different species we would say, “oh my gosh” (OMG). She said that when we started to think of names for the company, we had to incorporate those letters. On the 14th day of study, we sat down and came up with different company names until we finally thought of “One More Generation.”
After we started the company, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010 happened and someone told my mom to turn on CNN to see what was happening. We had just gotten home from school and went to see what she was watching. When we saw the images of the seabirds and sea turtles being pulled out of the water caked in oil, we knew we had to do something. We looked up at our dad and asked what we were going to do about this problem. The next day, he researched organizations that were helping out with the spill and asked them if they needed any supplies. They gave us a laundry list of supplies, which we collected by going door to door asking people if they would donate. We even asked churches and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts groups for supplies. After four months of hard work, on Olivia’s 8th birthday, we drove 11 and a half hours to the Gulf of Mexico and delivered the supplies to the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Center. They had 146 sea turtles, 6 sharks, 1 dolphin, and countless birds that were all sickened from ingesting oil. While we were there, we learned a cool fact about sea turtles and oil. If a sea turtle swallows oil, the best way to get the oil out of its stomach is to use a syringe to put mayonnaise down its throat. Mayonnaise bonds with the oil; the sea turtles don’t like the mayonnaise and throw it up, along with the oil.
On our last day there, a professor from Berkeley, California, congratulated us on all of our hard work, but then asked us what we were doing about the environment. I looked up at my dad knowing that he would have the answer, but he didn’t. She asked us where we wanted her to put all the sea turtles when they were healthy again. My dad said we should put them back in the ocean, of course, and the oil has to be gone someday. She said that, yes, the oil would be gone someday, but oil is not the problem—plastic pollution is. She was totally right. We returned home and studied the issue of plastic pollution for the next 5 months and talked about how we as a family could make a difference.
After training ourselves to reduce the amount of plastic we used, we decided to educate other kids our age about this so they can make a difference, too. We explained to our dad that if we could make saying no to plastic a habit for us, we thought we should be able to do so for other students. We sat down with two teachers and a retired principal to create a weeklong curriculum to give students resources to start making a difference. On the first day, we teach about plastic bottles and how many average adults are using each year; then, we give each student a reusable stainless steel water bottle. The next day, we teach about plastic bags and give the students reusable cloth shopping bags they could decorate themselves. Each day is a new learning experience.
On the last day, Friday, we get all the kids to make an art sculpture out of plastic trash they brought from home each day. This gets the parents of the students and even the community involved in learning about plastic pollution. The program is available across the United States, and we have even introduced it into the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa as well.
Speaking of South Africa, we traveled there in 2011 to visit the cheetahs we adopted and delivered a big check to the founder of the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre. But while we were there, we realized that cheetahs weren’t the only species threatened. We learned that the rhinos were also in danger of becoming extinct. In places like Vietnam and China, rhino horn is being used to make traditional medicines and people believe that rhino horn can cure certain illnesses, although the horn is only keratin—the same material as your hair and fingernails. When we came back from South Africa, we educated ourselves more about the issue of rhino poaching and decided to launch a Rhino Letter Writing Campaign. Through this campaign, schools around the world would write letters to the president of South Africa pleading with him to stop the killing. We wanted to collect 1,000 letters over a one-year time period and deliver them to the Minister of Environmental Affairs in South Africa. By the end of the year, we hadn’t even collected over half of the letters, so we decided to run it for another year. By the time we traveled to South Africa again, we had collected over 10,000 letters from kids all around the world. We delivered these messages from youth to the Minister. To continue our efforts to save the species, we partnered with the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, on an education outreach program designed to target the youth of Vietnam. We recently came back from a visit to Vietnam, where we worked with many schools to raise awareness about the plight of these species.
We have launched a new campaign regarding deforestation and saving orangutans. We learned about the threat to this magnificent species and are currently working with orangutan experts about ways we can help. Please visit our website and write a letter about orangutans to the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, asking him to stop allowing the palm oil plantation and logging industries to cut down the forests where orangutans live. We are trying to collect over 10,000 letters, even 100,000 letters, by October 2016. We can’t wait to see letters and drawings from youth around the world. We are currently working with the UN’s GRASP program (Great Ape Survival Project) and hope to be hand delivering all the letters we collect from around the world at their meeting in Jakarta in 2016. You can send letters to: OMG, P.O. Box 143627, Fayetteville GA, 30214.
Olivia and I have a special message for all the youth of the world. You can make a difference. Just start with one thing—maybe pick up a piece of trash when you see it or even stop eating meat one day of the week and reduce your carbon footprint. You can adopt an endangered species, like Olivia and I did. One small, simple act can have a big impact on the lives of your generation and even generations to come. Just remember, “Anyone can make a difference. If we can, you can, too.”