Climate Activists Are Getting Younger and Younger

Xiye Bastida speaks at TED-Ed Weekend at New York’s TED World Theater in February 2020. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Whitney Houston once sang that the children are the future. When it comes to preserving the planet we all share, she may have been right on the mark.

Humanity is in a race to save the planet from destruction. Nature’s continued survival depends upon everyone’s effort. Fortunately, climate activists are getting younger and younger, leading the way to a cleaner tomorrow.

The Pressing Problem of Climate Change

The last seven years have been the warmest on record, and humanity is feeling the effects. You can see the effects of climate change on life expectancy. Air pollution alone claims 10 million lives per year. Others perish from more frequent and intense natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes.

Those aren’t the only problems unchecked greenhouse gas emissions cause people. As the world lies in the grip of one pandemic, more could soon follow. Animals migrate away from regions of climate degradation, bringing microbes against which humans have no natural defense.

Individual solutions such as switching to solar power can reduce your carbon footprint, but there may not be time to wait for everyone to get on board with going green through suggestion alone. Stricter measures must be enforced from the top, requiring world leaders to get on board with solutions that may frustrate financial interests but which are nevertheless necessary to preserve humanity’s ongoing sustainability.

The COP26 climate conference wrapped recently, and world leaders have already come and gone. Over the coming days, officials from nearly 200 countries will get down to the nitty-gritty of how to corral rising temperatures at 1.5° Celsius. However, the average age of decision-makers at such events is 60. These individuals likely won’t be around to witness the worst of the devastation if the fears of many scientists come to pass.

The situation looks grim, but throwing up hands in despair isn’t the answer. According to the International Energy Agency, the new national emissions pledges could limit warming to 1.8°C. Although this stays below the 2° scientists agree could lead to widespread devastation, the results will nevertheless be catastrophic to the coming generations.

Some young people don’t want to wait for the older generations to protect them. Activists like the ones below are taking charge.

The Children Leading the Way to a Cleaner Planet

Humanity can learn a lot from the inspiring examples of young people like these climate activists. Here are some young climate activists making a difference.

1. Greta Thunberg

She’s practically a household name in many parts of the world. The 18-year-old recently led a youth protest in Glasgow, calling the recent climate summit a “failure” and a “PR exercise.”

Greta began her work by skipping school to protest outside the Swedish parliament. She’s the recipient of three Nobel Peace Prize nominations for her climate activism. She has spoken with global leaders and addressed the United Nations.

2. Disha Ravi

Disha Ravi, 22, is one of India’s foremost climate activists. She founded the Fridays for the Future network and organized strikes with farmers affected by the climate crisis.

Ravi was inspired by Thunberg. She also derives motivation from the effects of climate change she saw on her grandparents’ farm. She has recently become the face of India’s dissent after being arrested in her home for a toolkit document she produced connected to India’s ongoing farmer protests.

3. Xiye Bastida

Xiye Bastida is a 17-year-old climate justice activist who likewise organizes strikes with the Fridays for the Future group. She is based in New York City. In 2018, she received the “Spirit of the UN” award for her work.

4. Kallon Benson

14-year-old Kallon Benson found her inspiration at 9 when she attended The People’s Climate March in New York City. In April of 2017, she attended The People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., bringing a parachute containing 1,600 signatures obtained from her work in traveling to various schools, instructing children about climate change.

5. Leah Namugerwa

Another member of the Fridays for the Future network, Leah Namugerwa, is a 14-year-old activist and student striker in Uganda. She likewise follows Thunberg’s example, carrying her placard wherever she can communicate her message. Although her actions drew curious looks at first, the day is now the busiest one of her week.

Climate Activists Are Getting Younger and Younger

Tomorrow’s generations can’t wait for their elders to do what’s right. Climate advocates are getting younger and younger and fighting for their — and humanity’s — future.