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Teenagers produce videos tackling air pollution

Ebun, Daniel, and Coleman from William B. Travis High School took first place honors for their Soot and Shadows video. / Courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund

by Eduardo de la Garza

In “The Greatest Love of All,” Whitney Houston sang “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way …”

Now in its sixth year, the Environmental Youth Council‘s (EYC) Houston Teens Care About Clean Air Video Contest, open to any high school whose teachers or administrators sign up their school, has proven something to the EYC and its parent organization, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF): Teens do care.

Winners were announced May 11, with first place winners Ebun, Daniel, and Coleman from William B Travis High School in Fort Bend County earning a $2,500 Visa gift card; second place winner Lilly from Atascocita High School earning a $1,500 gift card; and the teams of Carlos and Karla from Pasadena Hugh School and Isabella and Merribelle from Klein Heigh School each receiving $500 for tying for third place.

“The contest began as a small competition for participants in EDF’s Environmental Youth Council,” said Shannon Thomas, manager of education and community engagement for the EDF. “This year, we received 69 videos from students at 19 different high schools across the Houston area. Students are challenged to create two-minute videos expressing their thoughts on the impact of air pollution and climate change on their lives and communities. And every year the submissions get better and better.”

Ebun, Daniel, and Coleman’s submission is an actual noir-style short film titled Soot and Shadows, which follows a detective examining a dead body and ruling him to be the victim of ozone pollution, owed to the fact that many Houston neighborhoods are close to factories. You can watch the YouTube video here.

Lilly’s Houston’s Paper Trail: A Clean Air PSA, is a video highlighting the Piney Woods Region with its lush trees. However, the young filmmaker makes the astute observation that for every tree cut down for development, there are less trees that act as filters for pollution. You can watch that video here.

Carlos and Karla’s Breathing in the Danger: The Invisible Threat of Air Pollution, is another PSA about what causes air pollution and how people can solve the problem. Watch that video here. In Isabella and Merribelle’s Take a Closer Look, the young documentary filmmakers tell how people’s habits contribute to deforestation, the destruction of ecosystems, and litter. Watch that video here.

“EDF loves hosting the contest each year because we understand the importance of educating youth about these issues,” Thomas said. “We also understand the power of the youth voice — something we work very hard to instill in our Environmental Youth Council members. Teachers love having their students participate because it is a fun and unique way for students to learn and in turn, teach others.”

Aside from the four top winners, EDF also announced the People’s Choice Award winners: One Job by Reagan and Clean Air by Reece from Atascocita High School; The Impact of Air Pollution on Animals by Emily & Presley from Tomball Memorial High School; The Pollution Solution by Isabella, Harrison, and Sophie from Episcopal High School; The Reality of Air Pollution by Mya from Porter High School; Saving Skies by Mateus and Caleb from The Woodlands High School; Top Gear Goes Green by Harrison and Theodore from St. Thomas High School; and Houston’s Dirty Secret by Reyhan and Trudy from William B. Travis High School. You can watch those videos, eight additional Honorable Mentions, and the rest of the 69 submissions on the Houston Teens Care About Clean Air Video Contest YouTube channel.

EDF states on its website that it’s addressing climate change by supporting people’s health, letting people and nature thrive, addressing environmental issues — advocating, working on environmental justice, and using economic means to affect change by uplifting equity and inclusion. The EYC website states that it teaches students that pollution, the climate crisis, and environmental injustices impact everything around them.

“The goal of EDF’s Environmental Youth Council is to prepare the next generation of environmental leaders,” Thomas said. “This video contest allows students to think outside of the box about solutions that will impact their planet. These are the future scientists, lawmakers, and business owners, so it’s important to provide them with the tools they’ll need to impact change in the future.”

The contest did show something else. It won’t be politicians or world leaders who do it. It’ll be kids who save the world.