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Domestically, the same thing was happening. Statewide groups began forming in Alaska, California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Arizona, with some of the first national meetings held in redwood forests. Eventually, an amalgam of local Green parties throughout the country officially formed the Green Party of the United States in 2001, the same year the Global Greens held its first meeting in Australia and became a worldwide entity.
Santa Monica's Michael Feinstein, who has over the years been involved with his party locally, nationally and globally, attributes his party's growth to the hundred-monkey theory.
"There are several cases where movements that are intrinsically youth-motivated discover that there is a party they can go to," says Feinstein, who himself came to the Greens at the age of 29, after several years of backpacking around Central America. "In 1991, registration growth took off when Bush number one first attacked Iraq. Also what marked our growth were the Seattle anti-globalization marches. You don't see a lot of Democrats coming out against NAFTA, WTO and the World Bank. You will see a huge rise in numbers after the war in Iraq begins.
"The point is, today we are in close to 90 countries. This has spread cross-culturally, which shows that it's a kind of a species-wide response to the unsustainability of our lifestyle."
The Greens of Germany made world news this past September when they elected 19-year-old Anna Luehrmann to Parliament. "I was annoyed that politicians are usually elder men who don't really care about the problems and ideas of young people," she e-mails.
Presently, Anna, who still gets excited about the newest Harry Potter, is trying "to be the voice of the young generation. That means, for example, I would like to implement the factor of 'sustainability' to all areas of politics so that we don't live at the cost of generations to come." At work, her focus is "foreign affairs, the European Union and globalization."
Closer to home, Anna's peers seem to be just sobering up from a video-game-and-media-saturated daze.
"We grew up in the computer age," says Shawn, picking at an almond croissant. "Video games, computers, the Internet, cell phones, all these things really started to define our generation instead of being defined by creativity or our consciousness and what exactly we're doing."
Cameron, who has been working on a yearlong research paper on the effects of pop culture on this generation, theorizes that video games and commercials are basically the opium of the teen masses. "Apparently, if you see an ad eight times you're brainwashed by it," he explains. "It gets in your mind and stays with you." Cameron, who "mostly listens" to political rapper Spearhead and Bob Marley, believes the only real solution is to "break away from mainstream media."
Only 8 years old when he organized 25 of his schoolmates from Mar Vista Elementary to clean up a strip of Venice Beach, Cameron seems to have been born with the big picture in mind. "What's really scaring me now is the polar ice caps melting," he says, laying his anti-Bush shirts out on a card-table display. "When the ice caps melt, not onlyare the polar bears gonna die, but the ocean levels are going to rise, which means all this [California] will be underwater. He [Bush] may have his money, but he won't have his land."
At home, Cameron has four small aquariums filled with fish and different local freshwater samples. He hopes the science project will prove the effects of water pollution on marine life and the need for more sewage-filtration systems. "We only have onefor the entireL.A. area. That doesn't seem like enough," he says. "I'm also reallyconcerned about the forests all being cut down; that's reallyfreaking me out."
It's easy to write off kids who are concerned about the environment: It's so par-for-the-course that it seems rote. But, as Forrest Hill explained, kids, who have nothing else to think about except the future, instinctively understand that if the world is unsafe for polar bears, spotted owls, wolves, or Pacific salmon for that matter, then the world is unsafe for us.
THE YOUNG PEOPLE INTERVIEWED FOR THIS STOry have some things in common besides the Green Party: Five excel at creative writing and/or poetry. Four are in a band or aspire to be. Five are interested in photography and/or filmmaking. Five participated in the honors, gifted or advanced-placement programs at their public schools. Six do some form of community service or political volunteering. Six are from working-class or middle-class families. Two are from racially mixed households. All of them have at least one parent who's left-wing.
During his 2000 presidential bid, Ralph Nader noticed that it was these types of middle school and high school kids who were taking an interest in his party. "They would have mock elections, and the kids would demand to have my name on the board with Bush and Gore," the longtime consumer activist, whom the media often portray as priggish, recalls with a laugh.
Of the college-age kids who have constituted his core supporters dating back to the Public Interest Research Group network formed in the '70s, he says, "They are idealistic; they have energy, and they focus on important issues that are usually ignored. They're the ones responsible for putting the environmental issues on the map with the first Earth Day, April 1970. Fifteen hundred college and university events that same day. It made the cover of Newsweek, Time, the television evening news. Same with the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement."