What happens when a high school student in love with writing since the third grade grows into a climate activist who believes in empowering her fellow youth? The answer is The Earth Chronicles, a student-led environmental newspaper that focuses on youth voices for climate action and awareness about our planet. Julianne Park and her brother, Aiden Park, both Dougherty Valley High School students, say they started The Earth Chronicles during the pandemic “when the wildfires raged across California and near our homes. We were scared and we saw fear on the faces of our friends and family. But we decided to turn this around. Our goal is to spread awareness and educate people about what is happening on our planet. Through writing, we want to empower students to fight climate change in their own unique ways and equip them with the tools they need for the future.”
“The name The Earth Chronicles,” Julianne explains, “is exactly what it sounds like. This newspaper publishes articles and hosts contests about our planet in hopes of writing the stories of the Earth and the people who live on it.” The Earth Chronicles are digital, publishing free and accessible content on a regular basis. During the summer, there is a monthly contest in June, July, and August. During the rest of the year, contests will be around the winter and early spring.
Julianne hopes that this newspaper will give students the tool to explore their talents. As the editor-in-chief alongside Aiden, she oversees all operations and publications for the newspaper and writes articles as well. Aiden found a passion for animals from a very early age. He shares editor-in-chief duties for The Earth Chronicles, manages the website, and writes articles as well. “We also have a growing team of students as our writers for articles,” Julianne adds, “but they do not participate in the judging process of the submissions.”
The submissions, she tells me, are handled in a simple and fair manner. “Submissions are sent to The Earth Chronicles team where we transfer the PDF versions into our folders and remove all personal information. Then, we begin the judging process. We all read the submissions on our own during our designated Contest Assessment Week and come together during a meeting on the last day to discuss. Once everything is decided, we notify the winners and runner-ups and publish the winning piece.”
“For readers of The Earth Chronicles,” Julianne says, “expect to taste a special type of writing unlike other newspapers. We focus on the unique voice of the writer and their feelings towards the topic as much as the accuracy of the information. The Earth Chronicles hopes to encourage students to really open up about their feelings about climate change and the planet and write about it in a manner that is both authentic and special.” Some recent articles include “Up Above: Stratospheric Ozone Depletion,” “Up Above: Tropospheric Ozone Formation,” “The Mystery of the Missing Water,” “Pangolin Scales: Protection For Us or Protection From Us,” “Scientist Rebellion: What It Takes,” “Sea Otters: More than Fluffy Creatures,” an interview with climate activist and environmental engineer Ashangwa Harrison and an interview with restauranteur Nancy Anman, who recently transitioned to reusables.
Every start-up has its challenges, but Julianne says they have experienced great joy in the feedback they are receiving. “People tell us they enjoy reading articles and publications with unique hand-drawn pictures. They appreciate the ‘Take Action’ pages and the resources provided. We have learned how powerful writing is and this is something we will never forget.”
Looking towards the future, Julianne hopes The Earth Chronicles will continue publishing the words of young people. “We hope that this publication will expand to different areas, such as low-socioeconomic communities, to give students the chance to combine their love for writing and our planet. We would like to spread access to the publication to lower-income communities as well, whether that means distributing a paper version or other ways. We also hope to expand our editors and writing committee membership to involve as many brilliant and talented young people as we can.”
Readers are always welcome to access the publication, and for writers, the contest deadlines are the end of each month. Julianne encourages entries from new readers, explaining the prompt, “The July contest begs this question: How is climate change impacting you? Everyone is impacted by climate change although the extent differs from person to person as some are more directly and severely affected. But we encourage everyone to write their story. Stories could range from the direct experiences of California wildfires to simply seeing climate change headlines every day on the media. Whatever it is, we want you to share YOUR story.”