Over the past few years, young activists around the world have come together in the fight to change the system, combat climate change, urge the world to wake up, and save the planet.
While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has become the face of the youth climate movement, she is not alone. The 18-year-old is famous for skipping school and sitting outside the Swedish parliament every Friday to demand the government to fight for the planet. Thunberg has inspired millions to challenge world leaders to take immediate action against climate change. Today, young global citizens are rising in every corner of the world, demanding accountability and action from their country’s governments.
From United States to India, from Indonesia to Kenya, meet the 15 young climate activists fighting to save the Earth…
17 year old from USA
17-year-old Isra, daughter of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in 2019. Since high school, Isra has been advocating for environmental justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, as a young black Muslim girl, she has been working to highlight the impact of climate change on people of color. In her own words, “climate change is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”
The young climate change and racial justice activist was also placed on the 2020 BET’s “Future 40” – a list of “40 of the most inspiring and innovative vanguards who are redefining what it means to be unapologetically young, gifted & BLACK!”
Jerome Foster II
18 year old from USA
At 18, Jerome Foster II is the executive director of OneMillionOfUs, an international youth voting and advocacy organization. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The Climate Reporter (a youth-led climate news outlet), and founder & CEO of TAU VR (an immersive technology company).
In 2019, he also helped organize three of the top 10 largest climate marches across Washington, DC. Jerome also addressed the United Nations Youth Climate Summit, and was interviewed by former US vice president Al Gore at the Atlanta Climate Reality Leadership Training. As part of Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate protest, Jerome also holds weekly climate strikes in front of the White House.
16 year old from Canada
The 16-year-old indigenous activist has been advocating for the universal right to clean drinking water since she was 8. In 2015, she attended the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden. The following year, Autumn confronted Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on his record on water protection in Canada at the Assembly of First Nations’ annual winter meeting.
In 2018, at the age of 13, Pelier addressed world leaders on the issue of water protection at the UN General Assembly. Furthermore, in 2019, Autumn was named the chief water commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation and was nominated for the Children’s International Peace Prize. She was also invited to speak at the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York.
16 year old from Kenya
When he was 11, Lesein learned about the impact of deforestation, climate change and plastic pollution. An avid footballer, now 16-year-old Lesein plants 10 trees for every goal he scores.
Through his school’s “Trees For Goals” platform, he campaigns for afforestation to increase Kenya’s forest cover as well as inspire young people across the world to take action to achieve a greener future. So far, Lesein has planted more than 1,400 indigenous trees including at the State House (the presidential residence) in Nairobi.
15 year old from USA
15-year-old Alexandria Villasenor is a co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike and founder of Earth Uprising. She is also a Fridays For Future organizer, and hence, the teenager skips school every Friday to protest against lack of climate action outside the U.N. headquarters in New York.
In 2019, Alexandria, along with 15 other youth climate activists, filed a legal complaint with the United Nations accusing France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey of failing to fulfill their Paris Agreement commitments. Furthermore, in January 2020, she attended the World Economic Forum as a youth speaker apart from participating in the School Strike for Climate in Davos alongside Greta Thunberg.
17 year old from Uganda
Known for leading tree-planting campaigns and starting a petition to enforce the plastic bag ban in Uganda, 17-year-old Leah Namugerwa is spearheading the climate change movement in the country despite facing criticism.
Uganda is at the risk of desertification due to droughts and raised temperatures – two factors linked to climate change. Leah is trying to pressurize the government into taking action by calling upon everyone to actively get involved in the fight against the ecological breakdown.
“It was the year 2018 when I first heard about Greta Thunberg from Sweden… I asked my dad what school strike for climate meant and he told me that Greta was not attending class every Friday to protest against her government inaction. I asked if what she was doing was possible in Uganda and his answer was yes. He went on to tell me that Greta is just one year and a few months older than me, meaning I could do what she does,” says Leah, who planted 200 trees on her 15th birthday.
12 year old from Netherlands
At 12, the UK-born Dutch environmentalist is a Global Youth Ambassador for the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and HOW Global (a water charity). When she was just 7, she started her own litter-picking campaign, Lilly’s Plastic Pick Up. Lilly has picked up more than 100,000 pieces of plastic in the past five years.
“After a pickup, I sort all of the plastic into groups, canned goods, bottles, etc., and then I take pictures of them and post them on social media, so people know how much plastic I find each week. I spread awareness and encourage youth to find their green heart,” she says.
In fact, from organizing beach clean-ups to creating challenges on social media to incentivize people to fight plastic pollution, Lilly spends most of her time raising awareness about wildlife conservation and climate action.
15 year old from Scotland
Described by many as “Scotland’s Greta Thunberg”, 15-year-old environmental activist Holly is building a UK movement of children demanding more action on climate change. She also helps drive forward the global school strikes for the climate change movement started by Greta Thunberg.
Holly skips school every Friday for an hour, a “sacrifice” she describes as “a small price to pay for standing up for our planet”. “The very point about missing school is that it makes people realize it’s important and we’re willing to sacrifice an hour of education a week. If you get a detention, that’s nothing to how we will suffer in the future if nothing is done. I want to get Scottish leaders to take climate change seriously and [know] that they’re destroying my future,” she tells the BBC.
20 year old from Brazil
At 20, Artemisa Xakriaba is protesting against the Brazilian government’s refusal to take action against the forest fires – mainly caused by deforestation linked to corporate agriculture – spreading across the Amazon rainforest. The young indigenous climate activist also represents the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, which protects 600 hectares of forest across Brazil, the Amazon Basin, Mesoamerica, and Indonesia.
“The Amazon agonizes year after year for the responsibility of the government and its destructive policies that intensify deforestation and drought, not only in the Amazon but in the other five Brazilian biomes. Climate change is a result of this, and it also helps to make the fires stronger…We fight for our Mother Earth because the fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all other fights,” Artemisa told the UN Youth Climate Summit in 2019.
9 year old from India
Regarded as India’s Greta Thunberg, Licypriya is one of the world’s youngest climate activists. Since 2018, the outspoken young leader has addressed over 400 institutions and forums in over 30 countries. She has been inspiring millions around the world to raise their voices for protecting, preserving, and nurturing the environment.
“Many undermine me but protesting over a year in front of the Parliament House for Climate Action from our leaders is not a joke. I will fight until my goal achieved. You may try to stop LICYPRIYA but hundreds of LICYPRIYA will come out. Never underestimate the power of a child,” she posted on Instagram last year.
The 9-year-old founded the “Child Movement” when she was only 7 to raise awareness to protect the planet by tackling climate change and natural disasters. In 2019, Licypriya received the “World Children Peace Prize“; she was also honored with the title “Rising Star” by the Earth Day Network. In 2020, she also received the “Global Child Prodigy Award”.
19 year old from USA
The 19-year-old climate justice activist founded Zero Hour in 2017 “to create a national mass day of action in order to get more youth involved in fighting for the health of the planet”.
Insisting that a stable climate is a human right, Jamie calls for an intersectional, immediate climate action movement, an end to all fossil fuel extraction and use, the complete reformation of mass factory agriculture, and the inclusion of indigenous voices in future climate planning.
In 2018, named as one of People Magazine’s 25 Women Changing the World, Jamie led the first Youth Climate March in Washington DC and also over 20 cities around the world. Interestingly, Jamie is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state of Washington for its inaction on climate change.
20 year old from Indonesia
This 20-year-old Indonesian-Dutch activist founded “Bye Bye Plastic Bags” with her younger sister Isabel in 2013 to seek a ban on single-use plastics and encourage its alternatives. So, their beach clean-up campaigns, online petitions, and addresses at international platforms (including the UN and the IMF-World Bank Group forum) played a role in the governor of Bali banning single-use plastic in 2019. For their efforts, the sisters have also been named among the world’s most influential teenagers by Forbes, Time magazine, and CNN.
“If we could meet with world leaders and speak to them, we would tell them to listen more to the youth, consider us as more than just inspiration. We have bright innovative ideas of how to deal with some of the greatest issues of our time. We are the future, but we are here now, and we’re ready. We’ve learned kids can do things. We can make things happen,” says Melati.
19 year old from Ecuador
In her childhood, Helena witnessed her family members lose their lives for standing against the interests of big oil companies. Hence, she is well-versed in their environmental impact on Indigenous land. In fact, a spokesperson for the Sarayaku Indigenous community (one of over 800 indigenous communities in Latin America) in Ecuador, the 19-year-old started her activism early, growing up taking part in protests.
Last year, Helena started the “Polluters Out” movement with over 200 young climate activists, scientists, indigenous people, and members of grassroots organizations from over 40 countries to remove the fossil fuel industry from every sphere it influences.
15 year old from Italy
16-year-old climate activist David Wicker organizes Fridays for Future in Turin. Arguing that climate justice is social justice, consequently David organizes protests to put pressure on the government to prioritize climate change. Since he is not allowed to vote and make real change, “this is the only way to raise their voice and be heard”.
“I demand climate justice and equity…. I used to have a normal life, without activism and many passions. But my life can no longer be normal, especially now that I am aware that I may not have a planet where I will be able to raise a future family,” he says.
20 year old from Argentina
20-year-old Eyal Weintraub is the co-founder of Jóvenes por el Clima Argentina (Youth for Climate Argentina). He organizes protests and strikes in the country so that the government and corporations take direct action to mitigate the climate crisis, “before it becomes the worst crisis in the history of humankind”.
“Climate change hurts most those who have contributed to global warming the least. That is something extremely important to consider when we talk about climate justice. Climate justice is not only mitigating the amount of CO2 levels we produce to prevent future damage, but also to provide adaptive measures for those places where it is already being felt and reparation for those affected,” Eyal says.