Greta Thunberg has become the biggest face of environmentalism. The 16-year-old Swedish student has been making headlines for her valiant efforts to fight climate change.
From delivering speeches at the World Economic Forum and in front of the United Nations, to openly criticizing world leaders for their inaction, there’s no denying that Greta is fighting the good flight.
But she is not the only child activist with a global mission to save the Earth.
Greta has company.
And like her, they’re ready to make the world listen. Meet the other young activists leading the fight against climate change:
Nicknamed the “water warrior,” Autumn Peltier is known for her water protection efforts.
The 15-year old Canadian is no stranger to public speaking on an international platform. When she was 13, she addressed world leaders at the UN General Assembly, where she looked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau straight in the eye and said, “I am very unhappy with the choices you’ve made.”
Autumn, who is from the Anishinaabe peoples, began her activism at the age of 8. She was inspired by her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, who also fought for water conservation and indigenous water rights.
Autumn has since received international praise and recognition for her activism. In fact, she has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize for the last three consecutive years.
Last January 21, Autumn shared the stage with Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum as they both urged world leaders to take a more active stance on climate change.
Isra Hiris is one hard-working climate change activist. Aside from organizing hundreds of student-led strikes across the United States, Isra also co-founded the American arm of a global youth climate change movement, U.S. Youth Climate Strike—all before reaching the age of 17.
Isra is the daughter of U.S. congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar. In middle school, she was a great supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. Isra began her environmentalism in the freshman year of high school after joining the environmental club.
Last year, Isra won both the Brower Youth Award and the Voice of the Future Award.
“The key thing is that we’re not going away. This is not something that we care about one day and then we drop the next. We often hear this, but this is the largest crisis that humanity has faced. But it’s also the biggest opportunity for unity and striving for a better world for all of us.”
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Although nicknamed the “Bronx version of Greta Thunberg,” Xiye Bastida clearly has her own unique voice.
Xiye proudly represents her Mexican Otomi-Toltec heritage while working tirelessly to raise awareness on climate change. Inspired by her own environmentalist parents, she started her own environmental club at a young age. But it wasn’t until she heard of Greta Thunberg that she started protesting in city halls and lobbying for the Climate and Community Leaders Protection Act.
In 2018, Xiye spoke at the Indigenous Cosmology at the United Nations World Urban Forum and was awarded the “Spirit of the UN” award the same year. In 2019, Teen Vogue released a documentary, We Rise, detailing her fight for environmentalism.
— Xiye Bastida (@xiyebastida) September 18, 2019
11-year old Ridhima Pandey is best known for boldly petitioning in the Indian Supreme Court for their inaction on climate change matters. She first filed the petition against India’s National Green Tribunal but decided to take it a step higher after it was dismissed. Talk about having guts, right?
Ridhima was among 16 young activists, including Greta, who openly criticized France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey for their failure in upholding their obligations to young people under the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ridhima is currently starting her own climate change advocacy non-profit group.
“Many a time, we hear that our generation is going to be the one in charge of dealing with the problems that current leaders have created, and we will not wait passively to become that future: the time is now for us to be leaders”
– Bruno Rodriguez, U.N. Youth Summit
19-year-old Bruno Rodriguez is currently leading the Leader of the Fridays For Future Movement in Argentina. Also inspired by Greta’s fight against climate change, Bruno helped organize a protest in front of the national congress in Buenos Aires.
Bruno is currently a political science student at the University of Buenos Aires.
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Este año me cambió la vida por completo. En una carrera contra el tiempo pude sumergirme en un proyecto político que impulsa una nueva concepción de militancia ambiental. Conocí compañeres con quiénes transito experiencias que nos hacen crecer permanentemente, nos dimos cuenta que formamos parte de una generación dispuesta a transformarlo todo y en esa estamos hasta que todo sea como lo soñamos La salida siempre es colectiva!
Why youth activism is now more crucial than ever
“This world is full of suffering, distress, violence and catastrophes. Students must decide: does something concern you or not? I say: look around, analyze the problems, ask yourself what you can do and set out on the work!”
– Noam Chomsky
Today, the world is fraught with political, environmental, and social issues deeply affecting the lives of billions of people. Climate change, although inherently critical, is not the only fight that needs to be addressed.
Racism, gun laws, female reproductive rights and human trafficking are only some of the most pressing issues the world is currently facing.
Which is why it’s now more important than ever for children’s voices to gain an international platform.
Children provide a refreshing and much-needed idealistic perspective on the things happening around the world. Without their passion, candor, and sense of justice, we will never be able to realize the gravity of these pressing issues.
According to Nancy Deutsch, professor and director of the University of Virginia Curry School of Education’s Youth-Nex Center to Promote Effective Youth Development:
“Young people have a long history of being on the vanguard of social change movements. Across the globe, young people are on the front lines of social change. This can be tremendously positive.”
Why is it beneficial for us, as a society, to encourage children to believe in something and actively speak out for it?
“Adolescents need to experience a sense of belonging and purpose – both things that can come from feeling tied to our social fabric in some way. When a young person’s connection to that social fabric is torn, they will look for other ways to meet those needs.”
So instead of looking at child activists as simply “children” who have no idea of “how the world works,” as adults, we should be able to comfortably—and without judgement—listen to their visions of the future. After all, they are our future.