In case anyone still hasn’t noticed, the planet is dying.

Sorry, climate change deniers.

I’ll agree, it’s comforting to entertain the idea that the climate crisis is simply a cover that “they” (the UN, liberals, communists…) use as a tool to exert massive controls over the populace. If this were true, we could all sit back and feel no guilt when we drive our gas-guzzling cars to the supermarket and load the boot with single-use plastic bags filled with plastic-wrapped packages (basically the last 100 years).

But that’s not the case here.

That human CO2 is causing global warming is known with near 100% certainty; that the sea levels are rising as the polar ice-caps melt at an unprecedented rate is no tin-foil hat theory but devastating truth. This in mind, it’s not hard to see what was fuelling the fire in Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speech earlier this month at the 2019 UN climate action summit in New York. In an emotionally charged speech that her critics have dubbed ‘demoralising’, the 16-year old activist accused leaders of ignoring the science behind the climate crisis, saying:

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy-tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?

It was a speech that captured the world; it was a call to action that continues to make the headlines even weeks after the event took place. Whether you believe it’s right or not for a person of her age to be a poster child for the cause; whether you have pinned all your hopes on Greta to save the planet or believe she is a prop for her parent’s views, you can’t argue that her place in the fight has succeeded in turning heads.

Greta Thunberg’s Green Army: introducing the five young activists changing the world

Simply put, the idea of a child desperately pleading for the future of humanity hammers a message home more than an adult saying sad facts about the state of the world. Unfortunately, a scientist on a soapbox just does not illicit much emotion from the public anymore and people are, by and large, numb to the pictures of dangerously skinny polar bears. Sad but true.

On the other hand, a child begging policymakers to get their priorities right cuts straight through the noise because their outrage illustrates the impact that past generations’ recklessness will have on their future.

So, unsurprisingly, Greta isn’t the only kid making her disdain heard.

Around the globe, young people are bunking off school to take a stand against policymakers and ensure the environment is front of mind in every decision made.

Isra Hirsi. Photo: Courtesy of Isra Hirsi
Isra Hirsi. Photo: Courtesy of Isra Hirsi

Isra Hirsi, 16

Daughter of Rep. Illhan Omar, Isra Hirsi co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike – the American branch of the international movement lead by Greta Thunberg. In 2014, Hirsi had been inspired to take action after seeing pipelines built in Minnesota and hearing about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2014. After joining an environmental group at her school, Hirsi soon focused her attention on fighting for groups that are disproportionately affected by climate change. The 16-year old further advocates for diversity in the climate movement and has spoken out on social media about under-representation of minority groups in the movement whose voices are rarely heard due to social inequality.

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Autumn Peltier, 15

Since she was just 8 years old, Autumn Peltier has been fighting for clean water and indigenous water rights. Having been marked by a sign that warned of toxic water at a reservation, Peltier sprang into action and championed water conservation as her cause.

Following in the footsteps of her great Aunt, Josephine Mandamin (an indigenous activist who walked the shores of all five Great Lakes to raise awareness), Peltier confronted the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when she was 12 about his policy on pipeline projects. In 2018, she spoke at the UN about the critical nature of water conservation and water access, explaining the spiritual role this crucial element plays in her culture:

Many people don't think water is alive or has a spirit. My people believe this to be true. ... We believe our water is sacred because we are born of water.
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Bruno Rodriguez, 19

When it comes to fossil fuels, Bruno Rodriguez cannot be accused of sitting on the fence. In his hometown of Buenos Aires, the impassioned teenager organised student walkouts at school to protest the behaviour of big corporations, encouraging young people across the world to fight government complacency on the issue of climate change. At the UN Youth Climate Summit, he called climate change the “political, economic and cultural crisis of our time” and said it was time for his generation to be the leaders in the fight against it.

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Helena Gualinga, 17

Fearful for the future and eager to protect the planet and its indigenous populations, Helena Gualinga has been waging war against big oil companies her entire life. Born and raised in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Gualinga was scared for the fate of her community, particularly in light of deliberate fires and deforestation.

“I’ve seen my uncles and aunts fight against these big companies to protect our territories, and they’ve been criminalized for that,” she said in a recent interview.

We realized that these companies are the same companies creating climate change. When I was little, my uncles used to run out in the jungle and keep the military out of our territories. Now it's in the courthouses, and with paperwork.
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Jean Hinchcliffe, 15

Jean Hinchcliffe was a Year 9 student in Sydney when her life was transformed by involvement in youth climate strikes. Her leadership, ironically, was accidental: after emailing students in Victoria to ask how she could help with school strikes, she got a response that welcomed Hinchcliffe as an organiser and offered support in achieving “her” goal. Taking the exchange as an opportunity to champion an important cause, Hinchcliffe has since become a key player in the international youth climate movement as well as the master of ceremonies at the Sydney climate strikes.

When asked about why it is that her generation care so much about tackling climate change, she said no one should be surprised at the efforts of today’s youth to raise awareness:

“I mean I’ve spent my life growing up surrounded by this constant news of polar ice caps melting and the Great Barrier Reef dying and animals losing their homes and bushfires and floods,” she says.

And that's been really scary for me growing up, knowing that this is my future.

Call it teenage angst if you must, but this isn’t anarchy for the sake of a street party. This is the future of our planet: if young adults are going to be angry about something, let it be this, and let us support them in the fight for a better world.

Poutiq