Hannah Testa may be 14, but she’s won more awards for her impressive work in environmentalism and animal rights as the founder of Hannah4Change in her few short years than most people win in a lifetime. When looking at her bio, we wondered what makes a kid this deep and motivated this young. We went straight to the source and asked Hannah – quite simply – why would you rather save the world than be a normal 14 year old girl going to parties and playing video games? She told us – in her own words;
Why I’d Rather Save The World At 14 Than Play Minecraft
In many ways, I am just a normal 14 year old. I am busy with schoolwork along with several school activities. I love animals, especially horses and elephants. I enjoy funny Youtube videos and computer games like Minecraft. And my friends and family mean the world to me.
Speaking of the world, Mother Earth is sending signals that it is suffering. Even though I am just 14, I can’t stand by and do nothing. That’s just not my style. When I was 4 I realized that the actions we take today can have an impact on our world. One day, after leaving a store, I said to my parents, “No one cares about our planet except for us”. I told my parents that no one brought their own reusable bags except for us. From a young age I knew that protecting the Earth started with us. Around the age of 10, my parents started exposing me to issues that were affected the animals I love, and so I started to really raise my voice to help the Earth and its animals. I raised money and awareness for various animal causes (it was difficult to focus on just one cause) by speaking at protests and rallies, collecting petitions to send to politicians, leading fundraisers, and producing educational videos to spread awareness of animal issues.
Around this time, I watched the documentary, Plastic Paradise, and realized that one of the biggest problems facing wildlife is one that we can control – plastic pollution. Since it is difficult for me to see a problem and not do anything about it, through education I felt I could get others to reduce their plastic consumption because I always believed in the mantra “Knowledge is Power”. Before watching the documentary, I didn’t give a thought to what happens when I throw away a plastic bag, bottle, or straw. Now I realize that when you throw away these disposable plastic items, there really is no “away”.
Some of the shocking statistics are that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans, that 300 million tons of new plastic are produced globally each year and less than 10 percent of that is recycled, that over 5 trillion plastic particles pollute our oceans worldwide, that more than 600 animal species are endangered or killed by plastic pollution, and that sea creatures such as fish and shrimp are eating small pieces of plastic—affecting our food chain in ways we may not truly appreciate.
After learning all I could about plastic pollution, partnering with several reputable environmental organizations such as the 5 Gyres Institute, and presenting to thousands of adults and children about this topic, I ended up networking with a local senator. My mom always taught me to seize opportunities as they arise, so I used that philosophy to invite the senator to a meeting. I had a simple request that we pursue an awareness day to educate the public about the effects of plastic pollution. Together, the senator and I wrote a resolution that will proclaim February 15, 2017 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia. And now I am publicizing this event to as many residents and businesses as possible, with the goal that at least on this day, we will all commit to avoiding single use, disposable plastic products such as plastic bottles, straws, and bags.
This event is receiving a lot of attention, not just from within Georgia, but all around the US and even beyond. I will be speaking on the Senate Floor of the Georgia State Capitol Building that day as the Resolution is read and passed. There will be nearly 100 environmental groups joining me in solidarity that day, with many joining me side by side, while other groups will support the event remotely. Several businesses, especially restaurants, will also be pitching in. Several restaurants will be either switching to paper straws on at least this day or will implement a policy to only give out straws when requested.
I will even have artists present that make artwork and jewelry out of plastic debris found on beaches or in our oceans. This unique artwork will be shown at the State Capitol Building in Atlanta on the day of the event.
For those in the Atlanta area, feel free to come by the State Capitol Building on February 15th. If you are not local to Atlanta, no worries, you can still support the cause by committing to reducing your plastic footprint. Perhaps you can avoid buying plastic bottles, or refuse plastic straws at restaurants, or bring your reusable bags to the grocery store. Just try something on February 15th and you’ll probably realize that it isn’t too hard to make a rather big impact on our planet, with the hope that you will continue along this path going forward.
So while I don’t have much time to play computer games, I am learning so much, enjoying myself and effecting change in my own little way. Yet, if we join together and use the power of our collective voices, we can force major change. I hope you will join me to influence changes that help our wonderful planet. Together, let’s change the world!
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