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How Teens Are Changing The World With Climate Activism

Updated: Feb 12

By Reeti Shah


Teenage climate activists are leading the movement to combat climate change


Did you know that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as of 2018 was 408 parts per million, the highest it has ever been in 3 million years? Also, 1% of all global greenhouse emissions are a direct result of deforestation. Judging by the current state of the world, climate change is arguably the most important issue that threatens humanity. Since most politicians have been slow in taking action against climate change, many teenage climate activists around the world have taken matters into their own hands to force their governments to listen and to act. More than six million people have joined the climate protests in over 100 countries across all continents (except Antarctica). According to Fridays for Future, a school climate strike movement, over 1,664 countries across 125 countries have registered strike actions.


Here are a few teenage climate activists who are trying to bring about change in their communities and in the world:


Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny (12)



Also known as “Little Miss Flint”, Mari Copeny had written a letter to former President Barack Obama about the Flint water crisis in 2016 and asked for a meeting with him or former First Lady Michelle Obama. Due to Obama’s resulting visit to Flint, awareness of the lack of access to safe drinking water in Flint spread all over the country. However, Flint is still suffering and Copeny is continuing to speak up about the water crisis.


In 2018, after Michigan governor Rick Snyder ended a state-funded free bottled water program, she teamed up with a charity in Michigan, Pack Your Back, to raise money for providing bottled water to Flint residents. In a month, around $50,000 was raised, which was enough for over 200,000 bottles of water. Recently, Mari had teamed up with Kidbox in order to distribute boxes of clothes and school supplies to children in need.




Autumn Peltier (15)



Autumn Peltier is a Canadian Indigenous water activist who is drawing attention to the lack of clean water in Indigenous communities. She is trying to spread awareness about how Indigenous people and people of color are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. At the Global Landscapes Forum last month, founded by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank, Peltier had declared, “We can’t eat money and we can’t drink oil.”


As a citizen of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation and the Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation, she represents more than 40 First Nations in Ontario, many of whom don’t have access to clean water. She currently lives on the unceded Wiikwemkoong territory on Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. Peltier is trying to persuade world leaders to ensure access to clean drinking water for people around the world. She has been speaking up about the environment since elementary school.


Last year, she addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where she spoke about how water is sacred in Indigenous communities and how it impacts everyone’s health and well-being. She had also confronted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016 and expressed her dissatisfaction against him as he failed to provide clean water to First Nation communities and decided to promote controversial pipeline projects.




Greta Thunberg (16)



Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate activist who has gained international recognition, as she has spoken at the United Nations and at other international events. She first became known in August 2018 when she held up a sign that said “School strike for climate” outside the Swedish parliament. Her actions have inspired other students to do the same. Eventually, these students founded the Fridays for Future movement, which is a school climate strike movement that encourages students to strike every Friday outside a school or a government office. Students are participating in strikes to hold leaders accountable for providing a safe future for everyone.


She recently spoke at the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23 and accused world leaders of taking away the futures of young people by failing to take adequate action to reduce climate change. Additionally, she had traveled to New York to attend a global warming conference by boat in order to reduce her carbon footprint, as the fuel burned in air travel leads to atmospheric pollution.




Isra Hirsi (16)



Isra Hirsi is the co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike and also the daughter of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. This organization’s largest strike in March inspired 1.6 million students across 120 countries to skip school and protest against inaction on climate change by politicians and other people in power. She has worked towards making the movement for environmental justice more inclusive for young people of color. She is also working to promote the concept of environmental justice, which is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.


Her activism in the movement for environmental justice was fueled when she realized that climate change actually affects people of color and those in poverty the most. People of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air while those in poverty are 1.3 times more exposed to polluted air than people living above poverty.

Sources:

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/why-didnt-greta-thunberg-win-the-nobel-peace-prize/2019/10/11/e84e6efc-eba4-11e9-9306-47cb0324fd44_story.html

2. https://www.conservation.org/stories/11-climate-change-facts-you-need-to-know/

3. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/05/03/minnesota-teens-urge-climate-action-at-legislature

4. https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice

5. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a357wp/isra-hirsi-ilhan-omar-daughter-climate-strike-profile

6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/greta-thunberg-reaches-new-york-by-crossing-the-atlantic-by-boat/2019/08/28/736eb9b2-c04c-11e9-a5c6-1e74f7ec4a93_story.html

7. https://time.com/5595365/global-climate-strikes-greta-thunberg/

8. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-trump-administration-finds-that-environmental-racism-is-real/554315/

9. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02696-0

10. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45972346

11. https://www.today.com/style/what-mari-copeny-aka-little-miss-flint-now-t159829

12. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8xwvx3/the-indigenous-teen-who-confronted-trudeau-about-unsafe-water-took-on-the-un

13. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/27/climate-crisis-6-million-people-join-latest-wave-of-worldwide-protests

Editor: Judy Zhang

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