OUR YOUTH ARE OUR GREEN REVOLUTIONARIES
By Awa Gueye
November 8, 2019
Every new generation inherits the problems of the one that came before it. As young people, we can only hope that our predecessors were conscientious enough to consider how their actions — or inaction — would affect our future. As we move toward adulthood, the youth assume the responsibility of ensuring the people of the world stay motivated to discard practices that are unacceptable and ideas that are outdated. We are facing these problems for the first time with a sense of urgency, vigor, passion and an inability to look the other way.
I was born in 1995, so when I was a kid the environment was a big topic of conversation. I don’t know a world where ice caps are not melting and classrooms don’t tell you to reuse, reduce, and recycle. In eighth grade, we watched Al Gore’s “The Inconvenient Truth” in three separate classes. Class projects in elementary school often revolved around endangered species. Around the country but especially as a New Yorker, the years following 9/11 taught me and my peers to understand and treat pollution seriously.
Of course, environmentalists have always existed but things are a bit different today. Our entire planet is in trouble leaving people from around the world with a common goal that does not discriminate against location, race, class, anything. To make this time even more powerful, we are able to connect, share tips, set up rallies and days of protest via the internet. There are no secrets to be kept from the youth because people can access the truth and access one another. Now we have leaders of real environmental change of all ages. The youth are able to spread their message through our damn phones.
Today, we can name heroes like Greta Thunberg who give us hope. Of course, where there is smoke there is fire and there are a bunch of students and young people who are working tirelessly towards ensuring our futures and the future of our shared home. Many of these revolutionaries are people of color who get less press but put in as much work as their white counterparts and deserve to be encouraged and listened to.
Artemisa Xakiabá is the 19-year-old who made a passionate speech at the NYC edition of the global strike against climate change this past summer. The indigenous climate change activist from São João das Missões in Brazil, works towards stopping environmental destruction in the Amazon and overall across Brazil. In her speech, she points out that there is no difference between a young indigenous female activist like herself or a young indigenous female activist like Thunberg.
Mari Copeny has been fighting for clean water in Flint for 5 years now. She’s known online as Little Miss Flint, a relentless activist against the water crisis. At 8 years old she wrote President Obama about her hometown in Michigan knowing it was a long shot but asking him to meet with the people of Flint, Michigan. He said yes.
Jamie Margolin is a first-generation, 17-year-old queer Jewish Latinx environmental activist. She advocates for vulnerable communities and understands that when fighting for Latinx voices in climate change you must fight for indigenous rights. Knowing that everything is connected, Margolin explains that there climate change catapults other issues like the immigration of Latin Americans into North America due to the climate crisis.
Vic Barrett is 20 years old and from White Plains, NY. He was encouraged to speak up because he is from New York in a territory with low-lying land that is threatened by rising sea levels. He spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.