The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Gen Z is leading the way in environmental activism. And why is that? Simply because our future depends on it. A 2021 Pew Research report found that Gen Z is overwhelmingly worried about climate change: 76% of them say that it’s one of their biggest concerns, while 37% make it their top concern. As more and more young people engage in the fight for our planet, from Alice Pataxó to Greta Thunberg, meet some of the most influential climate activists around the globe that are worth following:
ALICE PATAXÓ, 19 – BRAZIL
The indigenous climate activist was mentioned by the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as one of the great women around the world who are sharing their voices and experiences to demand urgent climate actions. Alice Pataxó spoke at the COY16, the youth equivalent of COP26, and denied the absurd lies the Brazilian government spreads about the Amazon. On Twitter, she wrote, “The forest has no owner, but it has a guardian. That’s why we’re here, to defend these territories, to defend life”.
Alice was always very active in student activism and since 14 years old she speaks about the issues in the indigenous communities. In 2015, she was personally affected by the repossession of the Pataxó land called Araticum. That was when she started to post on social media to raise awareness in their community.
TXAI SURUÍ, 24 – BRAZIL
Indigenous climate activist Txai Suruí was the only Brazilian to speak at the opening of COP26. Founder and leader of the Movimento da Juventude Indígena de Rondônia [Indigenous Youth Movement of Rondônia], she uses her social media platforms to show the impacts of agribusiness and illegal logging on the lands of the Suruí community.
BRIANNA FRUEAN, 23 – SAMOA
Native samoan, Brianna Fruean emerged as a voice of Pacific youth on the climate crisis. Founding member of the grassroots climate change movement, 350.Samoa and leader of the environmental group “Future Rush” since 11 years old, Brianna was one of the youngest people to attend international environmental summits.
At COP26, she gave a powerful speech about the impacts of climate change on the Pacific Islands. “There’s a misconception that climate change means Pacific islands will drown, and that’s it. That once we’re gone, everyone else will be safe. But, no. We may be the first, but we won’t be the last.”, she said.
VANESSA NAKATE, 25 – UGANDA
In 2018, floods devastated large areas of East Africa. That was when Vanessa Nakate, 21 years old at the time, decided to march against climate change in her hometown Kampala, Uganda. She was the First Fridays For Future climate activist in her country and founder of the Rise up Climate Movement, which amplifies the voices of African climate activists.
In 2020, she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, calling on world leaders to stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Alongside Greta Thunberg and other white climate activists, she was cropped from one of the official pictures of the event. Her question as to why they took her out of the picture ignited the conversation about diversity and erasure in the environmental movement.
HOWEI OU, 18 – CHINA
Known as the first Chinese teenager to go on a school strike for climate, Howei Ou was inspired by activist Greta Thunberg. Often a lone figure in her protests, due to repression from local authorities, that doesn’t stop her from fighting for the future of our planet, like a Chinese old saying ‘天下兴亡，匹夫有责’, which means “teach me to take a stand when the world is in a crisis”.
GRETA THUNBERG, 18 – SWEDEN
One of the world’s most known environmental activists, Greta Thunberg began her journey in 2018, when she protested outside the Swedish parliament “School Strike for Climate”, to pressure the government to meet carbon emissions targets. Her small action inspired thousands of young students all over the world in what became known as the Fridays for Future movement.
In 2019, she gave her famous speech at a United Nations climate event, calling out world leaders on prioritizing money over life. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words… We are at the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”, she exclaimed.