Climate change is here. Global warming is a reality and it’s up to the collective global effort to help our planet. Founded in 1970, Earth Day is an annual event that highlights the need for environmental protection and legislation that supports our planet. The growing global movement has events in over 190 countries and with the current COVID-19 pandemic, most of them are virtual. To celebrate Earth Day 2020, we are highlighting a number of young activists making a marked change in their communities and beyond.
Earth Day 2020: Youth Activists With a Better World in Mind
The youth are our future and climate change activism is a part of their reality, along with a keen sense of technology and embrace of social media. There is no more time for complacency around the state of our planet. Championing sustainable practices, climate marches, and running a global activist network is a powerful statement from Generation Z. According to this National Geographic article, there are more than 3 billion people under 25 around the world, accounting for two-fifths of the total population. The future of the planet is in the right hands but requires action from all of us. Here’s a round-up of important youth activists to keep in mind.
One of the most recognizable youth climate activists around the world, Greta Thunberg has mobilized youth around the world. Her climate change protest started in 2018, and soon her fellow classmates joined in. By 2019, she had inspired over 20,000 students in over 250 countries to join her school strike for climate change. Her savvy use of social media has allowed her to reach a huge global audience and receive countless awards. She was also voted Time’s Person of the Year in 2019. Now with the advent of COVID-19 and lockdowns around the world, she has moved her climate strike to the online sphere with virtual participation.
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Yesterday was hard. Really, REALLY hard. At #StudyHall I sat on a panel with some amazing humans including @yarashahidi and @mstinalawson. When the moderator asked my question, one that I’ve answered dozens of times, and had practiced for ahead of time, I froze up and couldn’t answer it. It was like my brain stopped working. It was sooo hard. I felt like I failed (see 2nd photo). But near the end of the panel with some encouragement from Miss @mstinalawson and the audience I was able to get over the mental block and tell my story. I share this because lots of kids follow me and they tend to think that I am perfect and that’s far from the truth. Sometimes I mess up, I forget things, I fall down. But none of that matters because I always push through and learn from my mistakes.
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny made headlines when she was the reigning Little Miss Flint and raised awareness about the ongoing water crisis in her hometown of Flint, Michigan. Mari was only 8 years old at the time, but her pleas and activism got worldwide awareness and recognition. Her determination to get access to a basic human right, clean running water, has not stopped. Five years later, Flint still doesn’t have clean water and Mari is responsible for establishing water distribution events to help residents of her hometown. Her Instagram bio says future president, and we’re certainly rooting for her in office one day.
Leading the change from Uganda, Leah Namugerwa is a 15-year-old student and climate activist. Uganda has experienced severe effects of climate change, with an increase in droughts around the country that have impacted the food supply. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, Leah joined the climate strike for change every Friday. Now she’s a team leader of Fridays For Future Uganda along with being a global ambassador for the organization led by Greta. She has led four climate strikes in Uganda and remains an important voice for the Global South. Her protests have drawn attention to the lack of press around environmental issues in her country. And for her 15th birthday plans? She planted 200 trees.
At only 17 years old, Quannah Chasinghorse is a climate activist from Han Gwich’in and Lakota Sioux Nations fighting for the rights of the indigenous people of Alaska. Alongside Nanieezh Peter, another indigenous activist from Alaska, she spoke at the Alaska Federation of Natives 2019 Convention to alert the community about how climate change is affecting the region and to highlight a climate emergency. Throughout the world, Alaska is one of the regions hit hard by global warming, with indigenous communities being forced to move off ancestral lands due to climate change. The region has been warming twice as fast as any state in the United States and this greatly affects the Alaska Native villages who rely on subsistence farming and hunting to survive.
If you’ve not heard of Isra before, you’ve certainly heard of her mother – Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. The 17 year old grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and through seeing extreme climate conditions in her hometown and state, Isra became an advocate for the environment.
Isra’s activism focuses on climate policy, making sure that the movement is accessible for all and that marginalised communities are represented. This includes mobilizing the youth through ongoing strikes. In March 2019, Isra coordinated student-led protests for climate change and co-founded the U.S Youth Climate Strike. Her efforts to combat climate change and being an outspoken voice in the activist community won her a Brower Youth Award in 2019.
Have you heard of any prominent youth activists? Let us know in the comments below – we love hearing from you!
Photo by The Climate Reality Project