This week, Greta Thunberg made waves by speaking passionately to the U.N.'s climate control symposium about the failure of the older generation to secure the future for her generation. Now that people are finally paying attention to her message, here are a few other young leaders who you should be paying attention to.
Autumn Peltier is a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation and has been an activist fighting for Canadian water rights ever since she was eight years old, after being inspired by her great aunt Josephine Mandamin efforts to protect the Great Lakes, which was a lifetime quest that the Anishinaabe teen continues in since her great aunt's death earlier this year. She took on Josephine Mandamin's job as water commissioner and now represents 40 First Nations communities across Canada.
"No one should have to worry if the water is clean or if they will run out of water," Autumn said during her speech to the UN General Assembly in 2018. "No child should grow up not knowing what clean water is, or never know what running water is.”
When she was eight years old, Mari Copeny (who is better known by her nickname Little Miss Flint) send a letter to then-president Barack Obama asking for him to meet with her and others in her community of Flint, Michigan, where an ongoing water crisis has caused untold amounts of damage. The meeting led to $100 million in grants to fix the water system.
Today, the 12 year old firebrand continues to advocate for her community, working with the nonprofit organization Pack Your Back to help over 25,000 children with donations for everything from school supplies to clean water.
“No, our fight to save the planet didn't start today with the #ClimateStrike and it doesn't end today either,” she tweeted, following the global strike last week. “Many of us have been putting in the work for years to save our planet. Don't just amplify our voices today, but every day and support our solutions to save us.”
Based in New York City, Xiye Bastida is a 17-year-old climate activist who was raised in Mexico and saw first-hand the effects of the climate crisis when her hometown was hit by extreme droughts and floods. Her family moved to New York City in time to see the damage doen by Hurricane Sandy, which inspired her to join the fight as a climate change activist. Xiye is a leader in the Fridays for Future movement and has worked alongside Greta Thunberg to inform and mobilize her peers. She draws strength and inspiration from her indigenous roots and hopes to inspire others to take a stand and care for the environment.
“People say the climate movement started decades ago, but I see it as indigenous people protecting Earth thousands of years ago,” she told PBS . “We need to bring [this philosophy] back and weave it into today’s society. People are here not to take over life, but to take care of it. It shouldn’t be ‘we the people.’ It should be ‘we the planet.’”