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Sustainability task force hopes to help kids anxious about climate change

Bellingham schools aiming to ease mounting concerns about the future of the environment.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — They are the first generation to grow up fully aware that their planet is in peril.

It's pretty heavy stuff for a high school junior like Grace Schamber.

"It's really scary to think about an uncertain future," said Schamber, a student at Bellingham High School.

For all of us, it's hard to escape daily reminders of the grim prospects humanity is facing.

In less than 12 months, western Washington has seen searing heatwaves, historic floods, and choking wildfires that are impacting our lives more and more. 

Kids are increasingly feeling out of control.

"I'm seeing more of this helplessness and anxiety that 'the world is on fire,'" said Bellingham-based child therapist Brianna Longwell.

"It's pressure on our generation as citizens of America and our communities to work toward preventing climate change," adds Schamber.

Recognizing the unique difficulties students are having these days, the Bellingham School District is launching a "sustainability task force" that will shape the district's long-term goals to combat climate change. 

"That's definitely what we're hearing is the concerns and the eco-anxiety that is out there," said Mark Peterson, the district's first director of facilities and sustainability, who will oversee the task force.

"You have to set goals in order to get where you need to be," he said. "Without goals, you're just shooting in the dark."

Longwell said she has seen kids as young as 7 years old worry whether the world will go on.

Longwell believes the task force is an excellent way to help kids see the good through the gloom. 

"If they can take back some control in their world it's going to reduce the mental health problems, reduce the anxiety," she said. "It's going to increase confidence and increase a sense of self and direction."

As for Schamber, she has applied to be on the task force, hoping to become part of the solution generation. 

"It makes me feel really excited and really hopeful to be able to collaborate, potentially, with lots of different people to reach a common goal of creating a sustainable world," she said. 

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