In honor of Earth week, I’d like to emphasize young women activists of color who are fighting for climate change around the world. Climate change is a big umbrella filled with multiple environmental issues, there are climate activists who focus on clean water, clean air, to fighting against deforestation! And the way activists work towards climate change also various in different ways: protest demonstrations, walk-outs, letters to the elected officials, and more.
Oftentimes, activists of color do not get the proper spotlight in the media that their work deserves. For centuries and in the now, Indigenous peoples have been fighting to protect the land and the environment but we do not see their faces and their stories being covered by popular media platforms! In recent years, Greta Thunberg, a young, white, Swedish girl has been picked up by many news outlets and shared worldwide repeatedly, leaving youth activists of color out of the climate change narrative. It is concerning to tie one single white girl to climate change, when in fact it has been women of color who have continuously spoken up about the issues in their local communities and nationwide. It’s so important that we add these women into the narrative because climate change impacts race, socio-economic status, geographical location, and other constructs that are permanently intertwined with this issue.
In Uganda, Leah Namugerwa is leading Fridays for Future strikes alongside Greta Thunberg, who’s in Sweden. According to news reports, Leah became interested in becoming involved after she watched scenes of landslides in Uganda. Leah’s Twitter page has an image saying #BANPLASTICUG. She demanded that Kampala implement a ban on plastic bags. She’s also been outspoken about vast amounts of deforestation that is occurring in her county, plus the droughts and flooding that continue to happen due to climate change.
If your city hasn’t already banned plastic bags when grocery shopping, then take the initiative to find a reusable bag (in-store or online) to use when you’re picking up groceries or take-out for home.
In Flint, Michigan, 12-year-old activist Mari Copeny is leading her community by example by using her voice to talk about issues that affect kids and the rest of her community. Her efforts began right after the Flint Water Crisis started; she started to raise money so families could have clean water from plastic bottles. After realizing her community needed to be more eco-friendly, she fundraised for water-filtration in homes. She has since expanded her efforts to help the nation in dealing with toxic water.
Instead of plastic bottles, use a reusable container that you can fill water with repeatedly (of course, don’t forget to wash). If you are also curious about your water system in your home, there are ways to tell if your water is not okay to drink, but also it doesn’t help to reach out to your city’s local government to ask where our sink and drinking water comes from!
From Seattle, Washington, Jamie Margolin is a 17-year-old queer, Jewish, Latina climate activist that co-founded a climate action organization called Zero Hour. After noticing thick smog in the air of Seattle and inhaling it, she decided to do something about it. She took action by founding an organization that educates young people about climate action but also encourages individuals to organize on a national day of mass action so people in a position of power like decision-makers can hear their concerns.
Participate in virtual conversations around climate action to engage with the issues that young activists are talking about. The organization Zero Hour could be a place to start learning more and finding out how to get involved.
In India, Licypriya Kangujam, 8-years-old, has taken action after attending a UN disaster conference in Mongolia in 2018 with her father. Before that, she had also accompanied her dad to a fundraising event for Nepalese victims of a deadly earthquake in 2015. Licypriya has raised her voice around air-pollution in her country. Her hard work and dedication to continue the climate change fight has made an impact on state-wide laws. Many states in India are adding climate change to their school’s curriculum (Licypriya’s pressing passion). Now, she’s pushing government officials to take further action on climate issues in her country.
Is your school talking about climate change? Take a look into your science curriculum to see what exactly teachers are educating when it comes to science and today’s world. If you’re concern that your school doesn’t talk enough about this, set up a meeting to speak with your teacher and see how you both can make that happen!
From the Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario Canada, Autumn Peltier (15-year-old) is a member and an Indigenous, clean water activist. Autumn has been outspoken about water rights since she was eight years old. She has spoken with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to beg him to keep communities safe from pipelines that could endanger communities by contaminating the water. She’s also spoken on a broader scale to talk on water rights, especially for Indigenous communities.
In what ways are you noticing your privilege, but realizing that others in your community don’t have the same resources as you? Another great way to start, too, is by researching oil pipelines that are being built by local and state governments. Track down where they plan to develop this and check what communities they will interrupt. Reach out and raise your concerns!
There are so many young people that are taking action in your hands! Start researching for more climate activists who are fighting for environmental justice, and you’ll continue to find lists of inspiring international names.