Four Young Activists (And Not Four Greta Thunberg’s in a Trench Coat) to Watch Closely

Greta’s recent celebrity has called into question something very important: The media’s tendency to whitewash struggles which have typically belonged to indigenous peoples and people of color. 

Now fortunately in Greta’s case, the space she made for a spotlight is big enough for the, in some cases, hundreds of other teens heralding the same cause. (500 at the UN summit, in fact.)

Today, we’re going to shine the light on four other activists who also fight the good fight, and deserve to be recognized just like Greta does.

Helena Gualinga

Age: 17

Home: Ecuadorian Amazon

Helena comes from a small village in Ecuador, and ever since she can remember, she protested with her aunts and uncles, fighting big oil to protect their community. “INDIGENOUS BLOOD, NOT A SINGLE DROP MORE!” reads her protest signs. 

She says when she was young, her uncles “used to run out in the jungle and keep the military out of [their] territories. Now it’s in the courthouses, with paperwork.” 

Helena’s message is simple: stop the fossil-fuel industry, and stop the destruction of the Amazon and its peoples. They cannot speak for themselves and they safeguard the biodiversity the rest of the world needs. And don’t consume what you do not need.

Leah Namugerwa

Age: 15

Home: Uganda

“I noticed adults were not willing to offer leadership,” she said. “And I chose to volunteer myself.” Leah inhabits the spirit of the youth climate revolution. She is marked absent every day that she hits the streets with signs and microphones.

In her home country, days have been hotter, droughts have been longer, rains have been irregular. And even though she couldn’t get a U.S. visa to come to the UN youth summit, she’d radicalizing on her homefront where she can.

Adriana Salazar 

Age: 19

Home: Bolivia

In 2016, Bolivia went through an insupportable drought, worse than it has in decades. “The people who lived off the land can’t live off it anymore,” Adriana said. So they moved into cities, already overcrowded and expensive, and left the land exposed.

Adriana is a law student, and is fighting to see the 1%, the class who won’t experience the worst of climate change, to donate to the Green Climate Fund. Practicing what she studies, she wants the planet to be treated as “a subject of law, and not an object of law.” In other words, for it to be given the same consideration a living, breathing person would. 

Autumn Peltier

Age: 15

Home: Wiikwemkoong First Nation (northern Ontario)

“We can’t eat money, or drink oil.” “Water Warrior” Autumn’s famous words rang out once again at the UN Global Landscapes Forum this year. She was drawn to activism because of the undrinkable water in indigenous communities. 

Her lessons about conservation and ethical consumption were impressed upon her in her childhood, and she’s bringing them to the forefront of the climate change fight. She suggests elders and youths working together to make decisions, ending plastic use, and never forgetting money cannot replace resources.

Vic Barrett: At 20, he and 20 other young activists sued the US government for violating their rights to a ‘healthy climate system.’ 

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: At 19, she is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, which is a “tribe of young activists, artists, and musicians from across the globe.” She is also a lead plaintiff in the above-mentioned lawsuit.

Isra Hirsi: At 16, she co-founded the US Climate Strike, and brings attention to the disproportionate way climate change affects people of color. 

Eco Highlights — Not Terrible News for the Environment

  • Hospital food famously stinks. Boston Medical Center fixed it. They’re running an organic farm on their roof because, as their manager Lindsay Allen, pointed out, “right when we’re at our most vulnerable, in hospitals, you’d think that would mean we need nourishing food.” The 2500 square foot farm provides:
    • 5000-7000 pounds of food per year, to patients, staff, and the city’s poor
    • Insulation of the building, reducing cooling and heating costs
    • Rainwater absorption
    • A habitat for two onsite beehives which pollinate the plants and provide honey 
  • Google pledged to invest $2 billion (of its parent company’s $753 billion) in wind and solar energy. 
  • It’s been a whopper of a summer for Burger King — from the protests earlier in the summer over Burger King’s use of animal feed suppliers contributing to deforestation, to the complaints this month that their plastic toy policy is wasteful. Don’t worry, they’ve promised to stop. With the plastic toys, that is. They’ll need a more convincing argument for the soy.

Where in the world is Greta Thunberg? 

Protesting every Friday, definitely. Last week, she toured through South America and is now at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre in Quebec.

Is the Amazon still on fire?

At the time of writing, you bet it is. 

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