A Young Climate-change Crusader

Chris Pascua with former VP Al Gore at the conference. Photo courtesy Pascua family

Chris Pascua is 12 years old, and I think – in fact, I’m pretty sure – he’s going to change the world.

I didn’t know that, of course, when I first met up with him and his mom, Atina, at Starbucks in Mililani. He looked like any other kid his age. He likes video games and computers. He’s cute, he’s smart. But then I discovered what sets him apart. He is completely committed to a big, important issue: climate change. Not only interested, but also eager to spread the word.

So how does a seventh-grader at the UH Lab School become a climate-change crusader? Chris said his interest was piqued a few years ago when he and Atina were in New York City.

“I asked my mom, why is it so hot? And my mom said, it’s because the climate is getting warmer. Right then something clicked in my brain.”

He was maybe 9 at the time. And he did what any other budding environmentalist would do: He got on the computer and looked it up. And when he was 10 years old something happened to kick his enthusiasm into high gear. The Blue Planet Foundation, a local nonprofit organization committed to ending the use of fossil fuels on Earth, came to speak at the family’s church.

“They started talking about the energy crisis. They noticed that I had a lot of interest in the subject and I had a lot of knowledge about it. So, about two months after that, they said, ‘hey, Chris, you want to do a rally for us?’ I said, ‘oh, sure.’

“I did research. I eventually got to the fact that (climate change) is coming from nonrenewable energy. And if we can start using renewable energy, then it will vanish.”

Chris’s involvement with Blue Planet Foundation continued and flourished. Earlier this year the foundation nominated him to attend the prestigious North American Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in San Francisco. He was selected – the youngest participant among 1,000 from around the world. What made it even more thrilling for him was that the program was founded by one of his heroes, Nobel Prize-winner and former Vice President Al Gore, who personally handled most of the training.

During the three-day conference in August, Chris and the others learned how to help communities around the world understand what climate change is, and what has to be done to stem it and eventually reverse it.

“Al Gore gave us a lot of information,” he says. “One of the interesting pieces I learned was that many people are still in denial about climate change ’cause they just don’t want to believe it’s happening. I think it doesn’t make sense.

“It’s everywhere – you can see it with your own eyes. It snows in summer; it’s cold when it should be hot, hot when it should be cold. Al Gore had many examples of that.”

Armed with his new knowledge, a portfolio and a thumb drive containing Gore’s famous slide show on climate change, Chris intends to spread the word.

He’ll start with churches and schools, and he’ll keep on giving presentations to whomever will listen “until everyone knows about it. The younger generation will give the information to older generations so they can do something about it, and they can give our generation a better start. Then our generation and the generation after that will all have a nice and clean future.”

That’s the best-case scenario, that his parents’ generation will finally wake up and fix the world for him and his peers. But Chris understands it may not happen that way, which is why it’s so important for other kids to join him. Because “if the older generation doesn’t carry through, then we can.”

Every member of the Pascua family is a true believer, and Chris is proud of that.

“The photovoltaic system was my mom’s idea. Composting was my dad’s idea. The Prius was my idea. The energy monitors were my sister’s idea.”

Atina says, “We see the long-term benefits. Because we have young children, we’re doing it for them.”

Making a difference is a family affair for the Pascuas.

And spreading the word is Chris’s mission. That’s why when he says he wants to help change the world, I believe he can, and I truly believe he will.