By: Kelly Li, General Sustainability Intern, Office of Sustainability Initiatives
In the final week of Climate Awareness Month, OSI recognizes youth climate activists that are serving our society and the environment in critical ways. In this article, six amazing global climate activists are highlighted for their transformational work in their respective realms. Coming from such diverse backgrounds, they are changing the global landscape of how environmental protests are being done.
Xiye Bastida: Age 18
“Our biggest problem is not denial. Our biggest problem is apathy.”
At the age of 17, Xiye Bastida is 1) a co-lead organizer of the Fridays For Future Youth Climate Strike movement, 2) a member of the People’s Climate Movement administration committee, 3) a speaker at the 9th United Nations World Urban Forum on indigenous cosmology, 4) a member of both Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, and 5) the organizer of a youth activism training program in preparation for the Climate March in 2019. Xiye Bastida is a Mexican-Chilean climate activist, born and raised by her environmentalist parents in the indigenous Mexican Otomi-Toltec nation. Following the devastating flooding and drought in her hometown of San Pedro, Xiye moved to New York City with her parents in 2015. There, Xiye began her activism with an on-campus environmental club where she organized a strike with 600 students walking out and joining The Global Climate Strike. Since then, she has set her eyes on pressuring leaders around the world to take tangible actions about the worsening climate crisis.
Jasilyn Charger: Age 23
“For the mountain for the earth.”
Jasilyn Charger is the co-founder of the International Indigenous Youth Council, The One Mind Movement, and 7th Defenders. Since the age of 17, she has been a Land Defender and community organizer and advocate for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She has been on the frontlines for six years battling pipelines and protecting and advocating for Native American and LGBTQ rights. Currently, she is working with numerous organizations to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Most notably, Jasilyn was one of the few youths who started the Standing Rock Pipeline Resistance Movement. To her, “This land is the only real thing that we have left, besides our culture, of our past.” So, she will do everything in her power to protect it. However, not everything was easy for her. Not only did she have to endure the push back from non-native members of the general public, but she also had to apologize to the elders in her own native community for speaking up because women in her culture are not supposed to lead. Despite all of these challenges, she has not given up on her dream and is determined to inspire more youth to take action. “It doesn’t take an extraordinary person to do extraordinary things. It takes a person willing to want change.”
Jamie Margolin: Age 19
“We are tired of waiting for adults to take action on the problems that are threatening our lives: The end of gun violence, racism, and climate denial are far past due.”
In 2017, disappointed in the state and the general public’s response to the Washington wildfires and Hurricane Maria, Jamie Margolin co-founded Zero Hour at the age of 16. She believes that having access to a clean and safe environment is an innate human right and should be protected at all costs. As a result, Zero Hour was created to take a stand against the lack of global climate action. Jamie and her organization strive to hold elected officials accountable for the environmental destruction that the previous generations have done to our earth. With Capitalism, Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism at the heart of the current climate crisis, the need for climate justice is equally as important as the climate issue itself. With 43 global partners, Zero Hour is collaborating with other youth-led organizations to speak up about the injustices experienced by communities on the frontlines of the crisis. Tackling discrimination from within, Jamie hopes to “bring more people into the climate movement and give listeners a starting point to begin taking action on climate change.”
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Age 20
“What’s at stake right now is the existence of my generation.”
Xiuhtezcatl has been a powerful voice in the climate justice movement since he was six years old. In addition to being an environmental youth activist, X also uses art, music, storytelling, and civic action to inspire and mobilize young people to protect our planet. At the age of 15, Xiuhtezcatl spoke before the UN General Assembly in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl, the Uto-Aztecan language, on climate change. As the youth director of Earth Guardians, a worldwide conservation organization, X works on projects like the EarthTracks app, which resembles a fitness tracker app for the planet. Users have easy access to the global Earth Guardians community, can monitor their environmental impact, and gain the tools needed for starting a more sustainable lifestyle. His biggest advice to all the young people out there is to find a community of people who have passions like you and, together, make the world a better place.
Vanessa Nakate: Age 24
“We need to give more weight to the voices of people who are most affected by climate change.”
Out of concern for the abnormally high temperatures in her home country, Uganda, Vanessa Nakate started her climate activist life in December 2018. For months, she stood alone outside the Parliament of Uganda, protesting the state’s inaction against the climate crisis. Since then, she has started numerous initiatives such as the Rise Up Movement and The Green Schools Project. She plans to place solar panels and eco-friendly stoves in 20,000 Ugandan schools through the Green Schools Project over the next decade. In 2020, Vanessa attended the World Economic Forum. However, following the event, the Associated Press (AP) news agency cropped Nakate out of a photo featuring other young climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer. Such public offense has pushed Vanessa into an unfamiliar region where she is fighting against both the climate and the racism crises simultaneously. Nonetheless, she is glad that this incident occurred because it brought more public attention to African activists and anti-Black discrimination.
Autumn Peltier: Age 16
“The Water Warrior”
At the age of 13, Autumn gained international notice when she confronted Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations about his support for pipelines over clean water and indigenous land. Since Autumn lives on Lake Huron, part of the largest groups of freshwater lakes on Earth, she grew up knowing the importance of water and the need to preserve it. As the Chief Water Protector for the Anishnabek Nation, she has inspired the Assembly of the First Nations to set up the Niabi Odacidae fund to protect water sources for future generations. However, her work and aspirations don’t end there. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Autumn has spoken up multiple times on the importance of clean water access for indigenous and marginalized communities that experienced the outbreak disproportionately.
These young activists are sharing with us pieces of a beautiful future that they envision and that they are creating. Climate action has been necessary for decades, but the latest generation of environmental advocates are collectively the loudest and most ambitious thus far. With the help of social media, their messages are able to travel faster and reach a wider audience. These activists are stepping outside of their comfort zones to show us all how to make a tangible difference in this world and in our future.
“Vote4OurFuture.” Who We Are – Zero Hour. http://thisiszerohour.org/who-we-are/.
“Meet Xiye Bastida, America’s Greta Thunberg.” PBS. September 25, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/wnet/peril-and-promise/2019/09/meet-xiye-bastida-americas-greta-thunberg/.
“Jasilyn Charger.” Earth Guardians. https://www.earthguardians.org/speakers-bureau/jasilyn-charger.
Our Climate Voices. “Jasilyn Charger: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.” Our Climate Voices. July 16, 2020. https://www.ourclimatevoices.org/2019/jasilyncharger.
“Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Is Protecting Our Planet and Its People.” DoSomething.org. https://www.dosomething.org/us/xiuhtezcatl-martinez-just-be-cause.
“Autumn Peltier.” NAAEE. September 10, 2018. https://naaee.org/about-us/people/autumn-peltier.
Romer, Christy. “Autumn Peltier.” Global Shakers. https://globalshakers.com/world-shakers/autumn-peltier/.
“‘Like I Wasn’t There’: Climate Activist Vanessa Nakate on Being Erased from a Movement.” The Guardian. January 29, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/29/vanessa-nakate-interview-climate-activism-cropped-photo-davos.