3 Climate Change Leaders Under 21
By: Lauren Ramakrishna
Whitney Houston famously sang that children are the future, and we should let them lead the way. And these young climate change pioneers are proof that she was right! Meet three young leaders who are on the front lines of climate change activism and advocating for the Earth and future generations.
Here’s what you need to know about these inspiring young leaders—and how you can help their efforts.
Greta Thunberg’s a teenager on a mission. In 2018, at just 15 years old, she began a worldwide movement for climate-related policy changes when she started protesting in front of the Swedish Parliament, seeking immediate action to combat climate change.
Thunberg decided she had to do something after a depression over climate change. Holding a hand-drawn sign that read “Skolstrejk for Klimatet (School Strike for Climate)”, Thunberg began going on strike every Friday outside of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, asking government leaders to adopt laws that align with the Paris Agreement. Thunberg also used social media to reach out to politicians. Follow her inspiring Twitter and Instagram accounts to support her work!
Her message resonated around the world and went viral. Her actions even spawned a coordinated school strike in March 2019 that had 1.6 million participants in 133 countries. But her efforts didn’t end there: hundreds of thousands of students walked out of classrooms on May 24, 2019, in another set of strikes coordinated via social media. Now 16, she’s spoken at the U.K. Houses of Parliament, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, the World Economic Forum, and even met the Pope!
Why we’re grateful for her: Adults may be in charge, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right. Thunberg took action, and when the media spotlight turned toward her, she used it to amplify the cause. Her dedication is making the planet a better place for her generation and future generations to come.
As the Youth Director for Earth Guardians, 18-year-old Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced “Shoe-Tex-Caht”) Martinez helps the climate-conscious organization train leaders in the environmental, climate, and social justice movements, using art, music, storytelling, on-the-ground projects, civic engagement, and legal action. He started young: he was just 6 years old when he began traveling the world to speak out against harmful practices and policies! Today, he’s a leading voice against fracking in his home state of Colorado—and even sued the federal government for failing to protect the atmosphere for future generations.
We’re not the only ones who appreciate Martinez’s leadership. President Barack Obama presented him with a United States Community Service Award in 2013, and appointed him to the President’s youth council. In 2015, Martinez received the Peace First Prize and the Nickelodeon Halo Award. Then in 2016, he received the Captain Planet Award and the Children’s Climate Prize in Sweden!
As if he weren’t busy enough, Martinez is also a musician and author. Check out his book, We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement That Restores the Plant.
Why we’re grateful for him: Literally nothing can stop him. When most kids are playing video games or sports in their free time, he was taking on authorities who make decisions that impact Earth. We can’t wait to see how he continues to use his influence!
Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters Youth Program Members
ThatHelps’ partner Trout Unlimited is on mission is to restore and protect cold water fisheries and their watersheds in North America. And the organization’s young people are helping make that a mission a reality!
TU’s Youth Program teaches conservation tactics at camps, clubs, and summits, carrying on the organization’s rich tradition of preservation and care.
Why we’re grateful for them: These kids, teens, and young adults are the stewards of America’s waterways. Who knows how many fish, rivers, and streams will be protected because of their efforts?
Photo: Trout Unlimited