They aren't old enough to stand for elections, but these young environmentalists could save our planet
Step aside, adults…
When Greta Thunberg’s powerful UN speech inspired criticism and jibes from every corner including the President of the United States, she took it in her stride in true Gen Z manner. She doesn’t have time for haters, she was just named TIME’s Person of the Year 2019 for her activism. Where adults seem to be faltering, Thunberg and her growing tribe of young environmentalists are not backing down.
Following in the footsteps of eco-warriors like Medha Patkar, Vandana Shiva, Jadav Payeng and Sunita Narain, these outspoken icons are using new-age technology (or just inventing their own), social media, protests and campaigns to force politicians and industry to take notice.
While most of us were busy with teenage crushes and watching Legends of the Hidden Temple at their age, this generation of young environmentalists believes there’s no time to waste.
Inspiring young environmentalists determined to save our planet
A school project introduced teenager Khushi Kabra to the depths of bio-compostable plastics. Combing glycerol with cornstarch, vinegar and water, she made an eco-friendly sheet of plastic by herself.
She kicked off her campaign IAmNotPlastics through which she spreads awareness about little-known plastic alternatives that already exist in the market. She shares the knowledge through anti-plastic drives at schools, grocery stores, malls and more, sharing a list of verified bioplastic suppliers with as many people she can reach.
All of 19, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is already a climate activist, hip-hop artist and the youth director of worldwide conservation organisation, Earth Guardians. He’s part of a lawsuit suing the US government for their failure to curb environmental degradation and protect citizens against climate change.
He’s not legally allowed to even enter a bar, but he’s been racking up the green brownie points since the age of 6 when his advocacy was on display at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio. At 9, he worked locally to ban the use of pesticides in Colorado parks.
In January 2018, officials in Cape Town announced that the city was close to “Day Zero” – when they would run out of drinking water. Years of poor rainfall left Cape Town experiencing a terrible drought.
“I see the effects of climate change every single day,” said Mgogwana in an interview with Guardian. “Our weather is not normal – one day it is hot, the next day it’s raining heavily. It’s a huge problem for farmers, and mudslides wash away houses, leaving poor families without homes.”
Having joined the Earthchild Project, she began campaigning for environmental education, bringing this knowledge and awareness about reducing consumption to classrooms and communities in South Africa.
John Paul Jose
When the UN predicted that we had just a 12- year window to pull the planet back from the brink of destruction, John Paul Jose shaken to the core.
He started reading up on what action India’s leadership was taking in tackling the climate crisis rippling across the country. He found little to his satisfaction.
The young environmentalist, global peace ambassador and youth leader of FridaysForFuture in India has been using his platform to organise the youth to speak up, spread information and hold the ‘adults in charge’ accountable for their actions, of lack thereof.
Ridhima Pandey was among the 16 young environmentalists who filed a complaint at the UN Climate Action Summit, along with Thunberg, to protest government inaction regarding the growing climate crisis. It wasn’t Pandey’s first time either.
When she was 9 (she’s now 11 years old), she filed a PIL at the National Green Tribunal against the Indian government. It addressed increasing pollution and environmental degradation and asked for the government to increase its efforts to meet the standards set by the Paris Agreement.
“My government has failed to take steps to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing extreme climate conditions. This will impact both me and future generations. My country has huge potential to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and because of the Government’s inaction, I approached the National Green Tribunal,” she said in an interview with The Independent.
Imagine Haaziq Kazi’s design, ERVIS, as a massive vacuum cleaner. As part of a school project, he designed a ship that would suck up waste from the ocean floors.
The prototype ocean cleaner has separate compartments. It analyses the different forms and sizes of plastic and segregates it. The young innovator’s first model took a test run in his bathtub and lasted about 6-7 seconds. He continued his research and testing, teaming up with a 3D designer to create a model.
His creative mind hasn’t stopped at ERVIS. He continues ideating to come up with innovations to tackle the damage being done to marine life. We could just be looking at the next Elon Musk here (whose work he said admires).