Around the Pier: Earth to Kids


Like lots of other 13-year-olds, Alec Loorz of Ventura, Calif. loves playing the drums, working with computers, and surfing. But there’s one thing that sets him apart from most kids his age. He also plans to save the world.

Since seeing Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Alec has been on a personal crusade to fight global warming. On June 13, he brought his newfound passion to climate-science mecca Scripps Institution of Oceanography for a day of mentoring and fun.

Alec admits he had never heard of Gore’s film before his mother, Victoria, took him to see it. “I thought it would be boring,” he said. “But after I saw it, it opened me up and I realized I had to do something about global warming.”

His self-proclaimed plan: To prepare the youth of America, or “kids like me,” to take control of our planet’s future. “If we can start to do something now, when we get older, we’ll know what needs to be done later,” he said.

His movement is already under way. Alec has developed a website titled which he hopes will create a forum for kids to learn more about global warming, and ultimately join together to make a difference. He also created his own version of a global warming presentation, inspired by Al Gore’s famed slideshow, which he shares with classmates and friends.

Naturally, when Alec was assigned by his school to shadow someone with a job he’d like, Alec immediately knew he wanted to meet someone trained to deliver Al Gore’s presentation.

Enter Lisa Shaffer, assistant director of program development and international relations at Scripps, and trained Gore slideshow presenter.

Alec contacted Shaffer to see if he could attend one of her upcoming presentations, but Shaffer far exceeded his expectations, scheduling a full day of activities for Alec to visit Scripps and interact one-on-one with some of the world’s leading climate science experts.

Alec’s day at Scripps began with a personal tour of Birch Aquarium at Scripps’s new climate change exhibit, “Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge,” led by project scientist Debbie Zmarzly.

Next, after some time job shadowing Shaffer at Scripps, Alec met climate scientist Jeff Severinghaus for a private lab tour and crash course in how he studies our planet’s climate past. Alec’s lesson even included a hands-on encounter with a piece of 150,000-year-old ice from Greenland.

Later, in paleobiologist Dick Norris’s lab, Alec viewed four-million-year-old microscopic fossils and learned how climate change may affect these tiny, but important ocean organisms in the future.

Alec’s visit finally came to an end at the Morgan Run Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe where he watched Shaffer in action as she presented her version of Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” slideshow, something she’s done for more than 15 schools and community organizations so far.

“I was very happy to have been able to provide Alec with this experience,” said Shaffer. “I think it's important to encourage kids who are excited by science and who care about the future of the planet.”

Alec’s goal is to stop global warming within his lifetime, and it seems Shaffer’s coordination of his visit to Scripps has only fueled his commitment. In the “My Day at Scripps” blog entry on his website, Alec writes, “it made the whole issue more real for me, even the possibility of making a difference.” Perhaps equally as important, Alec also describes his day at Scripps as “one of the funnest days I’ve ever had.”

--Shannon Casey

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