When we talk about climate activists, the name Greta Thunberg immediately comes to mind. While the young Swedish activist has made significant strides in raising awareness on issues surrounding climate change and inspiring widespread climate strikes to take place all around the world, there are many incredible individuals that are leading the way on global climate action to curb global warming and the biggest environmental issues we face today. As the UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16) is about to take place in Glasgow this November, meet 10 inspiring climate activists that are out there making a difference.
Also known by the initial ‘X’, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a young environmental activist and advocate for indigenous and marginalised communities that has already made massive waves in the fight against climate change. Martinez has been particularly vocal against the effects of fossil fuels and was one of 21 plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit filed in 2015 against the US government for the continued use of fossil fuels and their failure to act on climate change. The 21-year-old campaigner (and hip-hop artist) has made speeches at the United Nations on multiple occasions – in English, Spanish and his native language Nahuatl – to highlight how global climate action plays a part in the wider fight against injustice and inequality.
This young Ugandan activist is not easily deterred when it comes to climate justice campaigning. In March 2021, Morris was physically threatened, and had his placard and cell phone confiscated when he was protesting for climate action on the street. The year before, his Twitter account was suspended for nearly two months following his television appearance opposing industrial logging in his country’s Bugoma Forest. Morris is fiercely passionate about protecting the environment, especially after discovering Uganda is highly vulnerable to extreme climate events and how the floods that displaced his family is linked to climate change. Aside from planting trees and tackling plastic waste, the climate activist is also making sure everyone has the freedom of speech.
One of the world’s youngest climate activists, Licypriya Kangujam started advocating for local and global climate action since the age of six, where she protested outside the Indian parliament with a specific set of demands, including air pollution laws and to make climate-change literacy mandatory in schools. Kangujam has since addressed world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid in 2019, given TEDx talks at least six times, founded ‘The Child Movement’, a young, global climate justice organisation, and travelled to 32 different countries to give speeches and raise support, all before she turned the age of 10.
Born to two environmentalists who met at a climate change conference in 1992, this 19-year-old is continuing her family’s legacy and is now one of the most visible young activists in Mexico. Witnessing first hand the severe impacts of climate change when extreme flooding hit their hometown of San Pedro Tultepec in 2015, Bastida is not only lobbying for more aggressive global climate action by governments, but also for greater indigenous and immigrant visibility in climate activism. Bastida wears multiple hats at the same time, from one of the lead organisers of the Fridays for Future in New York City, to the co-founder of Re-Earth Initiative, an international not-for-profit organisation that aims to be inclusive and intersectional, as well as sitting on the administration committee of the People’s Climate Movement.
This Kenyan teenager was driven to take action after learning the shocking impacts of pollution and deforestation while he was at school. But Mutunkei has found a fun way to reforest; by combining it with his love of football. When he was just 12 years old, he founded Trees4Goals with a simple mission: to plant 11 trees every time he scores a goal. Fortunately, he’s a capable footballer, and has planted more than 1,000 trees so far. Mutunkei has also made efforts to encourage schools and football clubs to be more sustainable, attend climate conferences across the world, and working to expand his campaign across Africa.
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Luisa Neubauer speaking at a festival in Aschaffenburg in 2019. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
One of the main organisers of Germany’s Fridays For Future climate strike programme, and often referred to as the ‘German Greta Thunberg’, Luisa Neubauer is advocating for climate policies that surpasses the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. She has previously campaigned for the University of Göttingen to stop investing in fossil fuel industries, as well as educating and endorsing polices such as degrowth. Neubauer is now a member of the German Green Party as well as its youth wing to continue her lobbying efforts.
17-year-old Indigenous activist Autumn Peltier is fighting for clean drinking water for First Nation communities in Canada and around the globe. Hailing from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario, Pletier believes in the universal right to clean drinking water. Her campaign efforts has been drawing attention to the need to respect the sacredness of clean water. In 2019, she was invited to speak at the UN General Assembly, during which she said, “I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again we can’t eat money or drink oil” and continues to fight the fight in bringing access to clean water for Indigenous People across the world.
Ella and Amy Meek
As the name of their non-profit suggests, Ella and Amy Meek are two kids (and sisters) fighting against plastic pollution and waste in the UK. The duo started Kids Against Plastic in 2016 at the ages of 10 and 12, and have since picked up more than 100,000 pieces of single-use plastic litter all across the country. The also launched campaign initiatives with over 1,000 schools and over 50 cafés, businesses, and festivals, as well as published a book Be Plastic Clever in 2020. With multiple speaking engagements including a TedX Talk under their belts, you can follow the sisters’ latest campaigns and initiatives on social media, and help make the UK plastic free.
Kevin J. Patel
Kevin J Patel started his climate journey nearly a decade ago, with a clear goal of reducing air pollution and impacts of climate change in LA. He also wants to make sure others don’t suffer severe heart issues caused by dirty air like he did throughout his childhood. This climate justice activist has taken up a number of roles and projects to drive change in his state, including co-deputy partnerships director for the youth-led climate movement, Zero Hour, lead organiser for Youth Climate Strike LA, and founded OneUpAction International – an organisation that supports and empowers marginalised youth.
This Singaporean environmental activist and artist is using uniquely stylised illustrations to raise awareness of complex climate issues and sustainability-related causes. From circular economy and sustainable finance to environmental policies and ecology, Woo has managed to engage and educate new (and often younger) audiences on how to make the world more sustainable and the complexities in dealing with the climate crisis. Beyond her educational artworks, Woo works closely with a wide range of stakeholders in the private and public sectors, and civil society, including hosting book clubs on alternative economic models and ecofeminism, as well as producing climate-related content for media outlets such as TODAY online and Singapore Policy Journal.
Featured image: Xiye Bastida at a Tedx Talk. Image Source: TED Conference/Flickr