The children of the United States have taken up the cause of Anti-Gun Violence and it seems for the first time we are seeing change. New organizations such as “Youth Again Gun Violence” are attracting young people not only in the cities but in the gun-toting West.
The same is true regarding environmental conservation: There is a refreshing wave of youth activism. University students, teenagers, and children are appearing on world stages, suing governments, affecting policy, using new tools, and making a difference. The conservation and restoration world is waking up to the power of young environmental activists. The most recent IUCN World Conservation Congress dedicated much of its programming to “Youth Voices” and “Next Generations.” The theme of the UN’s 2017 World Wildlife Day was “Listen to the young voices.”
Are we listening? Are we seeking the involvement of young leaders in our work? If not, we’d better start.
With their passion, drive, creativity, and ability to capture audiences we may sometimes find hard to reach, young environmental activists bring a lot to the table.
Let us highlight a few young environmental activists in the U.S. who are taking action at distinctly different scales.
Seventeen-year-old indigenous climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez from Colorado first spoke out on behalf of the environment at the age of six. By age 12, he was addressing audiences at the Rio+20 United Nations Summit. By 15, the U.N. General Assembly. Today he continues to inspire worldwide audiences, but his voice has extended far beyond speeches. An author, hip-hop artist, and youth director of the global non-profit organization Earth Guardians, he is at the forefront of an environmental movement that is mobilizing young people around the globe.
Evan Maminski, Destiny Watford & Charles Graham and members of their youth-led organization Free Your Voice prevented the nation’s largest trash incinerator from being built less than a mile from their high school. They are continuing to fight for environmental justice in their neighborhood, and the world is taking notice. Last year, they were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.
When nature-loving, nine-year-old Robbie Bond heard that President Trump signed an Executive Order calling for the review of 27 National Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act of 1906, he founded Kids Speak for Parks and embarked on a journey to visit all 27 sites and review them for himself. In sharing the wonder he discovers at each site through social media he aims to build an army of kids who will speak out to protect parks.
Locally in the Columbia Gorge, the Hood River Ecology Club is a group of high school students determined to make their school and the Columbia River Gorge more sustainable and environmentally aware. One of many noteworthy projects was building two compost kiosks to reduce the amount of waste Hood River Valley High School produces yearly.
Youth are leading the way. They deserve our support and thanks!