“This is all wrong! I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you’ll come to us young people for hope? HOW DARE YOU?”
Four minutes is all it took 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to call the bluff of those in power, the powerful leaders who say they are doing their best to protect our planet and environment when in reality all they can talk about is money and fairy tales about eternal economic growth.
Love her or disbelieve her (No, you can’t hate her!), there is no denying that climate action is the need of the hour. And she is not alone in demanding change. We have rounded up this list of young environmental activists who are making it their life’s work to fight for a better planet. Bookmark this and support them – because they may make the difference we hope to see in the world!
Greta Thunberg | Fridays For Future
Greta was 8 years old when she first heard about climate change and global warming, something humans had created by their way of living and it worried her that no one seemed to be doing anything about it. In the next few years, Greta focused her energy on trying to reduce her own family’s carbon footprints – they turned vegan and gave up flying which affected her mother’s career but she persisted.
Determined to create a larger impact, Greta decided to go on a climate strike demanding that the Swedish Government reduce carbon emissions as per the Paris Agreement. She hoped that other young people would join her in these protests but when she found no takers, she went ahead alone. For 3 weeks, Greta missed school and sat outside the Riksdag in Sweden with the poster Skolstrejk för klimatet or school strike for the climate. What began as a lonely journey on 20 August 2018, today has become a global movement Fridays For Future, and in effect, turned Greta into a teen idol.
While children miss schools on Fridays demanding that Governments take concrete action to save their future, Greta has taken a sabbatical from school this year to take the opportunity to act now because it may be too late in just a year and spread her message by speaking at important public forums, hoping that the adults will eventually have a change of heart. And unlike most adults, she does walk the talk – she travelled across the Atlantic in a zero carbon yacht ensuring that her travel left minimal carbon footprints. Recently, Greta won the The Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize and she was also among the TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2018.
Most importantly, inspired by Greta many other youth climate activists across the world are taking a stand and starting their own climate strike groups in their regions. The latest numbers state that the climate strikers are 3.6 million people across 169 countries strong thereby giving the youth climate movement more power.
To know more about #FridaysForFuture and how you can help out, click here.
Hashtags: #FridaysForFuture #climatestrikes #schoolstrike4climate #GretaThunberg
Jamie Margolin | This Is Zero Hour
16-year-old Jamie Margolin founded the US based youth climate action organisation Zero Hour because she realised that youth voices were almost always ignored in the conversation around climate change and that the officials were not doing enough to bring about the much needed changes.
For Jamie, getting into environmental activism was a process – she was 14 when she interned in Washington State HQ for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. She then joined other environmental organisations to continue her local work. It was her dream to see youth march together demanding urgent climate action, a vision that was inspired by the Women’s March in 2017, and it was finally in the summer of 2017 after a spate of environmental disasters in US that she brought on board like-minded and equally motivated friends Nadia Nazar, Madelaine Tew and Zanagee Artis and started the This is Zero Hour movement.
On 21 July 2018, they organised their first youth climate march in Washington DC, turning Jamie’s vision into reality. And since then many other activities have been held to spread awareness about climate change and demanding officials to take necessary steps. Recently, The Zero Hour founders were at the UN Youth Climate Summit at the UN HQ and have been taking an active part in the climate strikes happening worldwide. One look at their FB page and you know, these kids mean business so adults better get their act together!
If you would like to support this groups work, click here.
Hashtags: #thisiszerohour #climatecrisis #gettotheroots #WeDontHaveTime #ClimateAction
Melati and Isabel Wijsen | Bye Bye Plastic Bags
Residents of beautiful Bali in Indonesia, sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen were extremely concerned about plastic pollution that plagued their little island. Even at a young age of 12 and 10 respectively, they knew that had to do something about it and a chance talk in school on famous people inspired them to take action and form Bye Bye Plastic Bags in 2013.
Since then, the sisters have been working tirelessly to ban plastic bags in Bali. They started an online petition which collected over 100,000 signatures and they even decided to go on a monitored hunger strike to get officials to listen to them. Eventually, the Governor signed a memorandum agreeing to ban single use plastic bags by January 2018, a move that eventually came into action in December 2018.
With the vision of a world free of plastic bags and where the young generation are empowered to take action, the BBPB movement is now international with teams in nearly 35 countries. Apart from talks and educating others about the harmful effects of single use plastic, BBPB also organises beach cleanup drives to rid the beaches of ocean plastic that washes ashore. Take a look at all the projects that BBPB are working on here.
To support the movement or to volunteer with them, visit the BBPB webpage here.
Hashtags: #byebyeplasticbags #teamBBPB #MelatiWijsen #OnePlasticFreeDay #plasticfree
Boyan Slat | The Ocean Cleanup
On a scuba diving holiday in Greece in 2011, 16-year-old Boyan Slat was surprised to see that there was more plastic than fish in the sea. He soon realised that no one was doing anything substantial to solve this problem. The thought “Why don’t we just clean it up?” stayed in his mind and he started his research to understand the problem and how it could be solved.
Boyan eventually came up with a design and presented it at TEDx Talk in 2012 but the idea didn’t catch on. Despite the hurdles, Boyan was so committed to his cause that he quit his studies, Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft and founded The Ocean Cleanup with just 300 euros of savings as starting capital. In 2013, he got his much-needed lucky break when the TEDx Talk went viral and through crowdfunding they were able to raise $90,000 to start off The Ocean Cleanup Project.
Over the next few years the team dedicated themselves to research, planning, designing and trials; and in 2018 the world’s first ocean cleanup system named System 001 was launched from San Francisco to help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. All plastic waste in the seas usually accumulate in 5 large garbage patches across our oceans and keep breaking down into small microplastic having an adverse effect on our marine biodiversity. Wondering how the system works? Take a look at this video.
Slat and his team are constantly upgrading the system to make it more efficient in being able to clean our seas, and they have announced that the upgraded System 001/B is successfully catching plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
In 2014, Boyan Slat became the youngest to be awarded the UN’s highest environmental award, Champion of the Earth. The Ocean Cleanup Project was selected by the Time Magazine as one of the best Inventions of 2015.
To stay updated on the progress of this project, visit here.
Hashtags: #theoceancleanup #BoyanSlat #waronoceanwaste #TOC
Wondering whether Asia’s oceans suffer the tragedy of trash too? Read a Asian kayaker’s account here.
Amy and Ella Meek | Kids Against Plastic
Sisters Amy and Ella Meek are homeschooled by their parents and while studying about the UN Global Goals, No. 14: Life Below Water caught their attention. Through their own journey of self discovery, they figured out how all the plastic garbage in the seas accumulate at the garbage patches affecting marine life severely. With a little inspiration from the already successful Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement, sisters Amy and Ella Meek formed Kids Against Plastic to fight the rising plastic menace in UK.
With special focus on single use plastic bottles and getting the UK to ban them, they gave their first TEDx Talk in 2018 and went on to pick nearly 100,000 pieces of single use plastic. These sisters are going from school to school spreading awareness about this issue and getting more youth involved in their fight for the environment.
To learn more about them, click here.
Hashtags: #kidsagainstplastic #refuse4good #ditchtheplastic
An army of kids who will change the world… for better
While we have mentioned in detail a few of the young activists who are helping to save the planet, there are many more globally who are taking their first steps into environmental activism. A few others deserving special mention in our view…
Hannah Testa | Hannah For Change
At age 4, Hannah Testa decided that fighting for the planet’s well-being was her calling and there has been no looking back. Now 16, Hannah Testa is already a well-known environmentalist and animal rights activist – giving talks, organising fundraisers, writing books and even helping develop school curriculum. Click here to know more about her work.
Environmental activism is not new for 11 year old Ridhima Pandey, one among the 16 children who filed a complaint at the UN Climate Action Summit protesting the lack of government action on climate crisis. In 2017, she filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal citing the Indian Government’s failure to act on climate change, a matter that is now before the Supreme Court of India. A resident of Haridwar in Uttarakhand, she is vocal about the pollution in River Ganga as well as the air pollution in her hometown.
11 year old Oliver Chua is a young environmental activist in Singapore. At the SG Climate Rally, Oliver spoke about growing up during the times of climate change and how a multi generation approach to fighting climate change is a sustainable initiative.
These young eco warriors are getting ready to lead climate action… Adults, let’s support these kids who’ll change the world!