By Magnus de Pencier
Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old from Sweden, has made headlines around the world in recent years as a tenacious, unapologetic, and strong-willed climate crisis and environmental activist. Her most notable movements include the School Strike for Climate (Skolstrejk för klimatet, Fridays for Future), in which over 13 million students from over 7,500 cities around the world march out of school in protest against the climate crisis and government unrecognition on the matter. She has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Right Livelihood Award, the Glamour Award for the Revolutionary, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award, to name a few. Most recently, Thunberg was named the recipient of the Nordic Council Environment Prize, to which she publicly declined the award and reallocated the $1 million pound prize to help support climate groups instead. When asked why Thunberg stated that “The climate doesn’t need awards”.
Greta Thunberg is a figure of hope and trailblazer of change for environmental activists and humanity in general. But she’s not the only one fighting the good fight. Here are five leading next-generation Climate Activists that you need to know:
- Alexandria Villasenor, 15 Years Old
Alexandria Villasenor is 15 years old from New York City. She is the Co-Founder of the US Youth Climate Strike and Founder of Earth Uprising. Earth Uprising is a global initiative that aims to “empower activists to take action against issues that affect their communities by providing resources to amplify and scale their actions”. They do this in five critical ways: Local government lobbying, community presentations/education, advocating for climate education in the American school system, direct actions and protests, and actively and continually participating in Fridays for Future and the Global Climate Strike. The most unique aspect however about Earth Uprising, is their new initiative called “My Initiative” which encourages and supports youth community leaders to fight the climate crisis and take action in however way they want.
Villasenor credits her passion for climate activism to the California Wildfires in 2018, which she stated opened her eyes to the real-life consequences of climate change. Greta Thunberg, and in particular her infamous COP24 speech addressing world leaders on their failure to address the climate crisis Villasenor also credits as a massive influence.
- Isra Hirsi, 16 Years Old
Isra Hirsi is from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is the daughter of Minnestoa Congresswomen Ilhan Omar. Although Hirsi originally focused and centred around issues of racial injustice, she now focuses on environmental racism and how climate change disproportionally effects people around the world, specifically Black and Brown communities. Hirsi is also a co-founder of the US. Youth Climate Strike and is a major backer of climate policy initiatives like the Green New Deal. Hirsi’s mother was the first Somali-American legislator in 2017, and the first Somali American in Congress in 2019-both incredible milestones. Hirsi was last years recipient of the annual Brower Youth Awards, given to six young environmentalists under the age of 23. Check out this video to learn more about this trailblazing young activist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHvH6ArQV4o
- Xiye Bastida, 17 Years Old
Xiye Bastida was forced to evacuate her hometown San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico due to floods and relocate to New York City. These real-life effects of the climate crisis forced her to grapple with humanity’s unnatural and exploitative relationship with the natural world. Bastida has embraced the Otomi Indigenous perspective of humans’ respectful and reciprocal relationship to the planet, stating that she believes “if you take care of the earth, it will take care of you”. Bastida is a leader in the Fridays for Future movement, and single handly organized a strike at her local school in Manhattan, mobilzing more than 600 kids to walk out, protest, and join the Global Crimate Strike. Bastida is a member of the administration committee of the Peoples Climate Movement, the Sunrise Movement, and the Extinction Rebellion. All organizations committed to fighting climate injustice.
“We don’t want people to suffer from the climate crisis to realize we are in a crisis,”- Xiye Bastida.
- Vic Barret, 20 Years Old.
After the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, Barret’s home in White Plains, New York, not only lost power for a considerable amount of time, but he was unable to attend school. Barret along with 21 other plaintiffs in the case labelled Juliana vs. the United States, sued the government for its continuing support in an energy system that contributes to excessive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Barret is also a member of The Alliance For Climate Education, and also attend the COP 21 Conference on Climate Change in Paris in 2015.
- Katie Elder, 19 Years Old.
Originally from Wisconsin, Katie Elder is so committed to fighting the Climate Crisis that she is taking a two-year gap before starting college, solely to protest, raise awareness, and lobby against the government for radical environmental reform and divestment from fossil fuels. Elder is the executive director of the Future Coalition and also created the U.S Youth Climate Strike Coalition, a movement that is ongoing and a force to be reckoned with.
“I think it’s really exciting. Young people are always the catalyst for change when it comes to social movements. When young people get involved, something changes and something happens”-Katie Elder on the current Climate Crisis.
Although our collective future is riddled with looming uncertainty and despair, these young, brave individuals and countless others, are leading the charge to make the world truly a better place.