On September 20th, 2019, youth all over the world held climate strikes to urge adult politicians to take our current climate crisis seriously. This call to action was thanks to 16 year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Since March of 2018 she has been school striking every Friday & has been encouraging the youth of the world to do it too. For a whole year Greta was striking in front of the Swedish Parliament on Fridays. She went in front of the European Parliament & traveled to many different conferences in Europe before traveling to the US this September. She traveled to America in a zero-emissions boat, striked in front of the White House, met with members of congress, striked in the streets of New York & attended the UN Climate Summit and gave a speech. Greta has done all of these things while dealing with aspergers. She says that she was in a deep depression after she was diagnosed and it wasn’t until she started learning about the climate crisis and started doing her Friday Strikes for the Future. She is a great young person using her privilege to speak on this issue that effects the world at large.
Now if this is the first time that you are hearing about, getting involved, or sharing things about the climate justice movement because the mainstream is finally starting to talk about this then you have a lot of learning to do.
For generations upon generations upon generations since the beginning of colonization, capitalism and imperialism Indigenious and people of color around the world have been fighting this climate justice fight for Mother Earth and our communities. Since 1492 and even before we have had the burden of fighting for the future of the planet and our own people as well as humanity in general. For North American Indigenious people we have had to deal with things like Manifest Destiny where European settlers though they had claim to come take over the Western part of the country from the Indigenious tribes of that land like they did to the Indigenious tribes of the East and Southern parts of the country. The environmental impact that slavery had and the impact imperialism had on the whole world’s infrastructure to this day is crazy. In a lot of these new environmental conversations people talk a lot about this being a thing since maybe the 1920s or ’30s but in reality the minute Indigenious people from all over the world, and Black & Brown folks were taken advantage of, killed and taken into slavery this has been a issue.
How this new whiter climate movement came about? An early philosophy of resource conservation was developed by Gifford Pinchot the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, for whom conservation represented the wise and efficient use of resources back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Also around that time John Muir started the environmental organization Sierra Club. Through out the 1960s & ’70s many white hippies became involved in the care of the earth and living off the grid, farming, and dropping out of society. Environmentalism also started to get political due to the “Green Movement” that many “leftist” created. In 1970 the very first Earth Day was introduced as a holiday by then senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and backed by then president Jimmy Carter. Since then many organizations have popped up like 350.org, Earthwatch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Rainforest Alliance, Environmental Protection Agency and many other groups to protect the Earth.
So fast forward Indigenious & people of color have been fighting the climate crisis forever and have lade the groundwork for this new whiter movement. Also over the years many youth & youth groups have popped up to fight this life threatening crisis for a while now. A few organizations have been popping up over the past 10 years started by youth leaders many of them Indigenious & youth of color leaders. One of the first youth led climate organizations I had heard about was the Earth Guardians led by the Indigenious young person Xiuhtezcatl. In 2016, another Indigenious led group came about called the International Indigenious Youth Council which came about after the no DAPL movement that started at Standing Rock. Then in 2017, the youth organization Zero Hour came about thanks to Jamie Margolin a young Jewish Latina from Seattle, Washington. Now there is a youth group popping up every day to fight this climate crisis we are facing.
All of this to say as great as this is that Greta is taking a stand against Climate Change she is a white young girl and the media and politicians are eating it up. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as she is just a kid but the way the media and politicians have been praising her when just three years ago they had a whole mainstream media blackout around the Dakota Access Pipeline that was being built and protested against in North Dakota at Standing Rock. Dogs were being sicked on pregnant women, the youth were getting their arms injured, people were getting massed in the face and thrown in dog cages when they were arrested among other things. No mainstream news wanted to cover Indigenious people’s Climate Justice fight for water until the end and even then a lot of them were lying and not telling the truth about what was going on. Then the Flint Water Crisis which has been happening since 2014 still hasn’t been taken care of. When then president Obama was in office he didn’t really do much to fix this issue but go to Flint drink the dirty water and keep it moving. It’s cute but also a bit hypocritical that Obama is posing for pictures with Greta and calling what she is doing so courages when you didn’t at all care about the courages youth of Flint or Standing Rock standing up for their Climate Justice. Greta has been all over every talk show, news station and morning show in America since getting here to the point that even Amy Goodmen of Democracy Now! had a long interview with her while not interviewing any of the Indigenious or youth of color who have been apart of this movement for so much longer.
Now like I said it really has nothing to do with Greta herself as she is really trying to do good for the people and planet but more so the white supremest mindset of the general public that makes people go crazy over her versus other Indigenious & youth of color doing the same thing. I mean look at the Amazon fires or the Native Hawaiians fighting the building of the 30 meter telescope on their sacred Mauna Kea. The mainstream media was talking about these things for a little but I haven’t seen any coverage of them in a while. The Montreal government even gave Greta the key to the city and she met with Justin Trudeau last week which is again pretty hypocritical considering the way Canada treats it’s Indigenious population & the recent pictures of Trudeau in black face. I just want to point all of this out because Indigenious & people of color are the groups that are being effected by Climate Change right now not 10 years in the future. They are the ones who’s islands are being destroyed, their water is being effected, their sacred sites are being tarnished and so much more but they are not getting the help or the media attention a young white girl is. Also say this generation fixes the climate crisis and is able to have a future right? cool but the marginalized communities will unfornally still be marginalized even after the planet is in working order. They won’t be able to have the futures these white climate strikes are fighting for. So as cute as it is that droves of white communities can come out and march for the day and then go back to their comforts many Indigenious and people of color can’t do that do to the way society is set up. They are dealing with the already terrible climate catastrophes that are rocking their world but also they are dealing with the sad reality of white supremacy, capitalism and colonization/imperialism.
Anyway since the mainstream media just wants to cover Greta and her white counterparts for the most part so I am taking it upon myself to let ya’ll know about the Indigenious and youth of color around the world who have been in the fight for Climate Justice from a very early age even if it’s something small all efforts matter no mater the size. These are the youth who are fighting for their communities which need the most help right now! Shoutout to them! Remember Climate Justice is Racial Justice!
Jasilyn Charger is a 23 year old Indigenous activist, twin & member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe located in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. She is the creator of the International Indigenous Youth Council that was started in 2016 at Standing Rock during the no DAPL movement. She has been doing activism from an early age fighting pipelines including the Key Stone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline. She comes from parents were very active back in the ’70s fighting for the protection of the Earth and the people. She was taught from a very early age to respect and take care of the Earth. She first got started in her activism when the Keystone XL pipeline was being proposed back in 2014-2015. Then in 2016 she and other Indigenous youth started the what became the worldwide fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. She is continuing to fight for her people and the Earth & speaks at marches, rallies and protest all the time.
Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, (his first name pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) 18. He’s an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement. At the early age of six Xiuhtezcatl began speaking around the world, from the Rio+20 United Nations Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York city. He has worked locally to get pesticides out of parks, coal ash contained, and moratoriums on fracking in his state and is currently a lead plaintiff in a youth-led lawsuit against the federal government for their failure to protect the atmosphere for future generations. Martinez lives with his family in Boulder, Colorado. His mother, Tamara Roske, is the Executive Director of Earth Guardians, a worldwide organization of conservation-minded children and young adults. He has two younger siblings, a sister, Tonantzin, and a brother, Itzcuauhtli. His father, Siri Martinez, is of Aztec heritage and he has raised his children in the tradition of the Mexica, one of the indigenous Aztec peoples of Mexico.
Mari Copeny aka Little Miss Flint:
Mari Copeny, also known as ‘Little Miss Flint’, is an 11 year-old activist fighting for the children of Flint, Michigan. At only 8 years old, Mari and her siblings had to learn not to turn on the water in Flint, Michigan after news broke of a water crisis. All of the water that was consumed in the city had to come from a plastic bottle, and bottled water became the way of life. As Mari was on her way to Washington DC to attend a Congressional Hearing on the water crisis, she wrote a letter to President Obama and convinced him to come to Flint, Michigan to get a closer look at the Flint Water Crisis. A couple days before the hearing, Mari asked her mom if she could send a letter to President Obama, knowing that the chances of him looking at it were about 1%. About a month and a half after the hearings Mari’s mom received a call from a private number. When she picked up it was a staff member from the White House on the phone. President Obama not only read a letter from little 8 year old Mari, but he decided to respond and come to Flint, Michigan to meet her. President Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan gained national attention and support towards Flint, Michigan Since 2016, Mari has fundraised over $500,000 with the nonprofit organization Pack Your Back that have impacted over 25,000 children in Flint and beyond. These funds have gone towards supporting students in getting school supplies, toys, bikes, clean water, and other resources needed to ensure a fulfilled and healthy life.
Irsa Hirsi is the 16 year old high school student & Climate & Racial activist who comes from a long line of activism in her family. She is a Somali-Muslim & the daughter of congresswomen IIhan Omar. In high school she participates in her school’s environmental club to which she was the only person of color in the club. She also is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the US Youth Climate Strike started in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she is from. Although she is the co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike she doesn’t strike every Friday due to being unable to like many of youth who live in her community who are low-income and of color who can’t always get out of class on a Friday to go strike but she feels her version of activism is still valid and important.
Autumn Peltier is a 15 year old Anishinabek youth who spoke at the UN last year and spoke again this year on behalf of the water. Autumn is apart of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario. She is the Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner. In 2015, Peltier attended the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, and a year later, confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his “broken promises” at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations. She uses her speeches to bring awareness to the sacredness of the water.
Vic Barrett: Vic Barrett is a 20 year old young transgender, queer, black, Honduran-American climate activist from New York, a college student and plaintiff in the Juliana v. United States. They are apart of the Afro-Indigenous community of the Garifuna people who are critically endangered according to UNESCO. At 14 they worked with the nonprofit Global Kids with the human rights activist after school program. That was the first time they started to work around Climate Change. When they were young they used to travel to Honduras to visit they’re grandmother and this started to get them thinking about Climate Change in Honduras. Vic has spoken in front of the UN General Assembly and is apart of the Juliana v. United States youth lawsuit where 21 youth are suing the Federal Government and State governments on their lack of finding a solution to this Climate crisis.
Levi Draheim: Levi Draheim is a 12 year old youth Climate Activist and plaintiff in the Juliana v. United States from an island off the coast of Florida. His island barrier in Florida is just 13ft above sea level. His island has been impacted by environmental issues from red algal blooms to increasing storms from climate change. After Hurricane Matthew, Levi volunteered replanting the dunes at the beach, where he also does litter clean-ups. The youngest #youthvgov plaintiff, Levi has been speaking at marches and rallies in his neighborhood to bring attention to the risk climate change poses to low-lying Florida. He is also a painter and a dreamer who is part of the lawsuit to imagine and build a better future.
Aji Piper: Aji Piper is a 19 year old Climate Activist from Port Orchard, WA and Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, which filed the Juliana v. United States lawsuit. His mother raised him in connection with Buddhism and herbalism, and when Aji was 12 he joined Plant for the Planet, a youth-run organization that has planted 14 billion trees worldwide. Now a member of the Earth Guardians RYSE Council, Aji has spoken at numerous rallies, events and universities, and even began a lawsuit against the Department of Ecology in Washington before joining the Youth v. Gov federal case.
Artemisa Xakriabá is a 19 year old Xakriabá young Indigenous Climate Justice activist from the Amazon. She took part in the first ever Indigenous Women’s march held in Brazil this year. Her role in the march sent her over to America as an Indigenous representative to attend the Climate talks in DC and to speak at the New York Climate Strike on September 20th. Currently living in São Paulo with the aim of studying psychology and music at university (she believes these subjects are crucial in helping new generations of indigenous people), Artemisa wants to return to her village after graduation to help future generations, despite the environmental struggles faced by her tribe on a daily basis.
Takota Iron Eyes:
Takota Iron Eyes is the 16 year old daughter of Chase Iron Eyes and one of the young Indigenous people who helped to organize the Standing Rock movement. She is a water protector from the Standing Rock tribe. Her father ran for congress of North Dakota & helped to plan the 2019 Indigenous People’s March along with his daughter this past January. Last July Takota along with the youth Climate org Zero Hour helped to organize a DC Climate March. Recently she hosted a rally with Greta Thunberg in Pine Ridge & Standing Rock as well as a Climate March. She continues to speak at rallies and marches to this day.
Jamie Margolin is a 16 year old Jewish Latinx, Climate Activist from Seattle, Washington and co-founder of the youth Climate organization Zero Hour. Frustrated by the inaction of elected officials and the fact that youth voices were almost always ignored in the conversation around climate change and the profound impact that it would have on young people, Jamie started gathering several of her friends in the summer of 2017 to start organizing something big, something hard to ignore! Nadia Nazar, Madelaine Tew, and Zanagee Artis joined her in her efforts. Jamie realized that a national day of mass action, led by youth, would be an ideal platform to ensure that young voices were not only centered in this conversation, but that elected officials and adults would hear their voices loud and clear! By the end of the summer, young activists from across the country, from diverse backgrounds, had joined the team and the Zero Hour movement had started taking shape.
Isaac Vergun: Isaac Vergun is a 17 year old climate activist. For Isaac’s 5th grade science project, he researched carbon footprint statistics and climate change education. Since then, his passion for the topic has only grown. He was particularly inspired by meeting Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, after which he began a campaign to get the city of Beaverton to divest from fossil fuels. Isaac dedicated his bar mitzvah (a Jewish rite of passage) project to this effort, and gathered more than 500 signatures for divestment. Isaac is also a member of Plant for the Planet, and helped organize the first ever Plant for the Planet Academy in the U.S. outside of Washington state. Isaac has been named a Climate Justice Ambassador, and taken part in Youth Climate Leadership Training.
Xiye Bastida: Xiye Bastida is a teenage climate activist based in New York City and one of the lead organizers of the Fridays For Future youth climate strike movement. She started working with the US leg of the Friday’s for Future back in March and organized her first Climate march back in March of 2019 where 600 people from her school took a citywide leadership role to organize Climate Strikes & speaking at rallies in town halls. Bastida was born and raised in Mexico as part of the Otomi-Toltec Indigenous peoples. In 2018, she was invited to the 9th United Nations World Urban Forum to speak about indigenous cosmology. She received the “Spirit of the UN” award in 2018.
Helena Gualinga: Helena Gualinga is an Indigenous youth from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Helena says she has been fighting Climate issues her whole life espically big oil companies. Gualinga has said she is scared about what could happen to her community, particularly in the face of recent fires and increasing deforestation. She especially works to advocate for other indigenous people.
Timoci Naulusala: Timoci is a Fijian young Climate activist. He spoke at the UN & Timoci Naulusala did the opening speech at COP23 in Bonn, Germany captivated world leaders at the UN’s high level annual conference on climate change. Calling on the ‘global village’ to open their eyes to the impact of climate change, Timoci told world leaders that the blaming and waiting game was over. His speech, which won him Fiji’s National Climate Change Speech Competition, opened the doors to his participation at COP23, where he earned him a standing ovation from world leaders.
Jaden & Willow Smith:
Jaden & Willow Smith: Jaden & Willow Smith of course are the kids of Jada and Will Smith who use their celebrity to give awareness to many different issues. Jaden started a sustainable eco friendly water company called Just Water after learning about the amount of plastic in our oceans. He also gave a water filtration system to Flint to help with their water crisis they are still facing. Jaden has done music with Xiuhtezcatl and Willow & Jaden came and performed at the September 20th Climate Strike in New York. Personally Willow & Jaden are some of my favorite young people just as I love them as people and the messages that especially Willow puts into her music.
Over all as Climate Change continues there will be young Climate Activist coming out to protest & bring awareness to this really important issue that will effect all of us. The next big global strike day will be on November 29th and people will be taking to the streets in mass to get our world leaders to act on the biggest issue of our generation.
Check out these videos and links below on some of the young Climate Activist.
Well Till November 29th…
“Dance to the Rhythm of the Movement, Will Be In the Streets Singing Bout the Revolution!”- Xiuhtezcatl