The power of youth

By Leanne Harloff

As a relatively young journalist, I learn something new about reporting and writing every day. No that’s not an exaggeration; be it during classes, an interview or a casual conversation with a friend in the field, I am always digesting new information about my future profession.

Each of these sources gives me unique, thought-provoking ideas to consider, but in general they all have one thing in common: they are adults. Each is older than I am with more experience either in the field or in the world generally.

I cherish this passed-along wisdom, but it wasn’t until working for Flux on a piece about 21 young Americans suing the U.S. government that I realized just how much we can learn from young people as well. Youth are incredible.

I faced this fact when I interviewed teens Miko and Isaac Vergun. They are high schoolers, struggling to meet deadlines and keep up with cultural events like the Superbowl, but they are also dialed in to the problems their generation faces. They are not blind to the important events happening around them, and they are definitely not going to sit by and let older people negatively affect their future. Their voices may be young, but they are not uninformed.

Of course, they are not alone in their fight. Their parents have helped guide them to a life of fighting to preserve the planet, but along the way the torch was passed to them.

Kelsey Juliana was the same way. Her parents instilled in her a zest for life that she has developed and used to help others. Her earnestness about her struggles and successes inspired me to tell her story. Talks with her are informative and full of empathy for humanity. She always made me want to listen.

These youth have made climate activism a defining part of their lives and their knowledge on the subject proves that. They each made the conscious decision to take a stand at a time in their lives when many of them are not even old enough to vote.

I realized in interviewing them that I wasn’t just searching for high quality quotes for my writing – I was learning, and youth were the ones teaching me for a change. They know more about the subject I wrote on than I ever will. But that’s part of what journalism is: listening and learning from those who know more than us, no matter their age.

Youth does not mean ignorance. This applies to the incredible sources in my story and it applies to Flux as a whole. We are students, we are young, but we know how to make our voices heard in an incredibly sophisticated way.

Working on these in depth stories has been difficult and time-consuming. It has led to frustration and elation all in the same day. But learning from my sources and from my fellow FLUXers has made every moment worth it. I am beyond excited for the day that I will hold a glossy copy of this year’s magazine in my hands.

I am still learning each day about how to develop my writing skills, but the intelligent young people who I talked to for my piece reminded me that, as the cliché says, age is just a number.