6 young climate activists making waves, who aren’t called Greta Thunberg
For most members of the public, the phrase ‘young climate activist’ is associated with one person, and one person only.
Greta Thunberg has achieved a remarkable amount in her short time on Earth, lambasting world leaders in a speech at the UN, feuding with Donald Trump on Twitter, and inspiring a global network of young climate leaders to strike and protest for a better tomorrow. But she’s not the only voice, and recognition is slowly building for other young activists the world over.
Here are just a few of them…
1. Licypriya Kangujam, India
Still one of the youngest members of an already-young movement, Licypriya Kangujam makes Greta Thumberg look like a seasoned campaign veteran. She began advocating for climate action outside the Indian parliament in 2019 at just six years old, with an impressively specific set of demands, including climate education and air pollution laws.
She has already given multiple TEDx talks, spoken at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP25), founded ‘The Child Movement’, a young, global climate justice organisation, and travelled to 32 different countries to give speeches and raise support. What had you done, aged nine?
2. Lesein Mutunkei, Kenya
Kenyan teenager Lesein Mutunkei has two overriding passions: sport and the environment. After reading about the climate crisis in school aged 12, Mutunkei founded Trees4Goals, with the simple mission of planting 11 trees every time he scores a goal. Fortunately he’s a capable footballer, and has planted more than 1,000 trees so far, while also attending climate conferences across the world.
3. Ella & Caitlin McEwan, UK
These schoolgirl sisters from Southampton were as surprised as anyone when their petition against plastic toys in fast food meals went viral, attracting over half a million signatures. The pair, then aged seven and nine, started their campaign after learning about the effects of plastics on the world’s oceans at school, specifically naming and targeting Burger King and McDonalds.
They won both battles, with Burger King calling time on plastic toys in 2019, saving around 320 tonnes of plastic per year, and McDonald’s going plastic-free in 2020. Their efforts earned them the Future Leader Award at the UK Climate Coalition’s Green Heart Hero Awards last year.
4. Lilly Platt, Netherlands
A fully fledged member of the Fridays For Future climate strike movement, Platt’s story starts way back in 2015, during a walk in the park with her grandfather. Then seven years old, she decided to count pieces of plastic on the ground, and totted up 91 bits of refuse in just 10 minutes.
She started Lilly’s Plastic Pickup, enlisting participants first from her school and then beyond, and has personally picked up more than 100,000 pieces over the years. She also holds an array of ambassadorial roles, for organisations ranging from Earth.org to the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
5. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, USA
A powerful voice not only on the climate struggle, but also the struggles of indigenous communities, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has Mexica heritage (the indigenous people of Mexico), and argues that climate action must be part of a wider struggle against injustice and inequality.
A hip-hop artist as well as a campaigner, sometimes known only by the initial ‘X’, he is youth director for global international activist organisation Earth Guardians, and one of 21 plaintiffs in Juliana vs United States, an ongoing attempt to sue the US government for its use of fossil fuels.
Now 21 years old, He has spoken at the United Nations on multiple occasions, giving speeches in English, Spanish and his native language Nahuatl.
6. Luisa Neubauer
One of the main one minds behind Germany’s Fridays For Future climate strike programme, and often hailed as ‘The German Face of the Movement’, Luisa Neubauer was involved in climate activism long before Greta Thunberg first held a sign outside the Swedish parliament. She earned her spurs in a long succession of advocacy groups through her teens and early 20s, and is now part of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s new Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.
Now aged 25, she’s been appointed to the judging panel of the Duke of Cambridge’s £50 million Earthshot Prize, alongside the likes of broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and actress Cate Blanchett. William praised the “inspirational” Neubauer, alongside fellow activist Ernest Gibson.
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