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The Californian teenager tackling invasive species

Words by Tess Becker

Young people are vital for protecting the environment in the longterm. One such young person is Aadi Gujral.

Aadi is a high school student who saw a problem in his community and decided to resolve it. After noticing an invasive species, yellow star thistle, in his local area, Aadi decided to lead cleanups to remove it.

He first noticed the weed while on a mountain bike ride, which he did through his school. While riding one day, he fell into a bush where he became covered in little thorns. After this experience, he started investigating ways to tackle it.

“I learned that it's degrading over 25% of state lands because it's very water intensive,” Aadi tells Smiley News. “So it boosts the drought, affects livestock grazing and wildlife habitats. I was like, 'wow, this is a big deal'.”

He felt that this was an opportunity as a high schooler to solve a problem in his community and really make a difference. 

“I've always felt strongly that youth have a responsibility towards our environment,” Aadi says. “I learned that the options to deal with these invasive plants are somewhat limited. While there are herbicides such as Round Up that effectively kill these weeds, these chemicals are toxic and cannot be used near the accessible trails. The most effective way to deal with it was to just pull them out. The park authorities struggle to keep on top of the problem with a shortage of manpower and resources so they were happy to get any help they could.”

Aadi started out hand-picking the weeds himself but eventually started bringing people together to weed the trails and even established a cleanup day.

“I first reached out to state park officials to get approval and they connected me with a couple of environmental scientists who gave me the logistics and the resources I needed and with that, then I established the cleanup day,” Aadi says. “I started reaching out to my community, my team, and then also just other passionate youth hikers.”

They also collect trash during these events with the aim of tidying the trails as much as possible. This is something Aadi is trying to educate his school mates about. 

“I've been working on fixing the issue by educating my peers and promoting hands-on actions we can take to protect the environment,” he says. 

They ran their first cleanup on Mt. Diablo and are hoping to expand weed-picking events to other trails around the state. 

“This is a problem all across California and maybe even expand statewide because if we can get it all out at once, then hopefully we'll have to come back,” Aadi says.

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here

Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more
American Forests. A conservation organization focused on preserving and protecting American forests. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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