By now, we’ve all heard of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen climate activist who turned her solo school strike into a global movement fighting climate change. But she isn’t the only youth activist out there. Meet the new generation of kids fighting for our planet.
Greta Thunberg has certainly been making the news, whether it’s in a positive or negative light: we’re looking at you, Scott Morrison! And it’s undeniable that she has had a significant and valuable effect on media coverage of climate change, as well as the establishment of a global movement of kids and adults passionate about the environment.
While Greta has shown that she is capable of immensely powerful things, there are other youth climate activists that we also need to recognise and support. While it should not be left up to children to address this crisis, it’s undeniable that the youth are putting older generations to shame with their bravery and determination.
Importantly, many of these activists are also people of colour, speaking out against the harm that white colonialism has wrought on the earth and its people, indigenous communities especially.
Here are just a few of the many young climate activists out there today, working hard to secure a better future for our planet.
Autumn Peltier, 15
Autumn Peltier is a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, and at the age of 15 is an internationally-known Canadian water activist. She took over her late great aunt Josephine Mandamin’s advocacy of the Great Lakes and serves as water commissioner representing 40 First Nations communities. Autumn has been an activist since she was eight years old.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly last year, she said,
“No one should have to worry if the water is clean or if they will run out of water… No child should grow up not knowing what clean water is, or never know what running water is.”
Xiye Bastida, 17
Based in New York and raised in Mexico, Xiye Bastida has experienced both drought and flooding as a direct result of climate change. At 17, Xiye is an integral part of the Fridays for Future movement and speaks at rallies to inspire change.
Speaking to PBS, Xiye said,
“People say the climate movement started decades ago, but I see it as Indigenous people protecting Earth thousands of years ago.
“We need to bring [this] back and weave it into today’s society. People are here not to take over life, but to take care of it. It shouldn’t be ‘we the people.’ It should be ‘we the planet.’”
Isra Hirsi, 16
Isra Hirsi is just 16, and is co-founder and executive director of the US Youth Climate Strike. This group advocates for climate policy as well as organising strikes around the country.
The child of US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Isra brings attention to the fact that climate change affects people of colour at disproportionate rates and speaks out about how important diversity in climate change activism is.
Isra had this to say on Twitter:
there’s a reason why the climate crisis became a big issue. when u see white students striking, the issue is important. but when it’s black+brown students, the issue is barely covered. the climate crisis impacts every1 but we barely talk abt the affects black+brown ppl face (2/3)
— isra hirsi (@israhirsi) September 22, 2019
Alexandria Villaseñor, 14
Alexandria Villaseñor is the founder of Earth Uprising, a global movement for climate change action, and one of the youngers organisers of the Global Climate Strike. She was also one of the young activists who filed a legal complaint against five major nations which, through their inaction on climate change, they say violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Every Friday, Alexandria strikes out of the front of the New York UN headquarters, skipping school to protest against climate change.
WEEK 42 of my @UN #ClimateStrike in NYC.
1/It's the end. But it's also the beginning. Today, I'm announcing I'm going on a climate strike tour. For the next few months, I'll be traveling and striking in a different city, or maybe even a different country, every Friday (thread)… pic.twitter.com/M8m6CHf3Bz
— Alexandria Villaseñor (@AlexandriaV2005) September 27, 2019
Leah Namugerwa, 14
Leah Namugerwa is a leader of Fridays for Future in Uganda, and has been striking every week for action on climate change and plastic pollution since February 2019. Uganda is at a great risk of desertification as a result of climate change. Droughts and raised temperatures will lead to the loss of fertile farming land if environmental action is not taken.
Leah said in an address on the climate emergency,
“If adults are not willing to take leadership, I and fellow children will lead them. Why should I watch on as environmental injustices happen before my eyes?”
She is one of several activists in the Fridays for Future movement to receive Amnesty International’s highest human rights award.
Jean Hinchliffe, 15
Jean Hinchliffe is a local Sydney school student and a key activist in the Australian youth climate movement, as well as the international campaign for action. She runs proceedings on stage at the Sydney climate strikes and coordinates with other youth activists around the world.
Jean told the ABC that the school time she misses is worth it,
“We are learning through this activism. I’ve been forced to learn so much and adapt in so many ways. And I’m so happy I did… I mean I’ve spent my life growing up surrounded by this constant news of polar ice caps melting and the Great Barrier Reef dying and animals losing their homes and bushfires and floods…
“And that’s been really scary for me growing up, knowing that this is my future.”
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