Letters from Ocean Heroes

A Letter from Amelia Fortgang

October 1, 2020

Dear Generation Z,

One year ago, on September 20 at the global youth climate strike, I saw a sign that read, “we don’t inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” I often think about this quote as a young climate activist and Ocean Hero. We inherited a broken world from our parents but must fix it for our children. We may be the last ones to experience our planet the way we see it today. Our children may not have the chance to see glittering blue seas, colorful coral reefs, and beautiful sea creatures. In fact, climate change is already removing these vital resources from our eyes.

photo of Amelia Fortgang

One week ago, in my hometown of the Bay Area, California, we woke up to saturated, orange skies, as heavy smoke blocked out the light from the sun. The AQI soared above 200, and we anxiously looked out our dark windows as we contemplated what this meant not only for California’s wildlife but also its residents up and down the coast.

Climate change is closely related to plastic pollution and other issues affecting our oceans. Plastics create heat-trapping gases through every stage of their lifecycle: extraction of fossil fuels, transportation, and as they are thrown away. Our oceans are carbon sinks, meaning the plankton absorbs around half of all carbon emissions, making our planet cooler. However, plastics in the ocean disintegrate into smaller microplastics that plankton ingest, preventing them from removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. Additionally, our warming planet has other consequences for our ocean. As our ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, it becomes gradually more acidic, making it harder for organisms like crabs and corals to build their shells and skeletons. As glaciers melt and oceans warm, it expands, causing sea level rise that threatens many coastal cities, including the Bay Area. All of these impacts of climate change, including plastic pollution, harm our oceans, proving that solving climate change is key to maintaining healthy and flourishing oceans.

We are Generation Z, the last letter of the alphabet. We’re the last ones who can speak up for our blue planet. While the responsibility should have never been on us as youth, we not only bear the burden of our world but have the opportunity to change it. Now, enough about our problems. Let’s get to solutions!

This is why as an Ocean Hero, I started the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. On Saturday, September 12, over 280 high school students from 88 schools and 14 U.S. states signed on to Zoom for the first annual Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. For some, it was their first time diving into climate issues, others were already passionate about the environment, but regardless, everyone learned from each other to work together in teams to create Climate Action Plans.

The summit consisted of exciting workshops, speakers, and discussions all centered on solving climate change. Too often, climate conversations are focused only on the problems without generating solutions. We organized our summit to culminate in Climate Action Planning workshops where students made plans to address climate change in their schools and communities. Our aim was to unite local Bay Area environmental clubs and climate justice groups for a day of learning, discussion, and action because we are truly stronger together when working towards the same goal.

Now, we are enacting change in our schools. One school team is planning to create a community garden, another is creating a climate justice-based community education program to make the environmental movement more diverse and inclusive, and another school is implementing Terracycle bins to recycle items that are commonly thrown away.

It was incredibly inspiring to see so many youth in my community rallying around one issue: climate change. As I think back to the quote I saw at last year’s climate strike, we are not only borrowing the world from our children, but we are striving to give them back a world better than ours.


Amelia Fortgang


To follow our progress and upcoming events with the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit, make sure to follow us on Instagram @bayareaycs, join us at upcoming workshops over the year, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter on our website: baycs.org.