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Light of My Life: Activism and Environmental Justice

We all have our passions and interests. They can make us feel reinvigorated and reset. For some, it’s a career that gets them to pull the covers off in the morning, and for others, it’s looking forward to a hike later on in the day. No matter what it is, hopefully, we can all find things that shine a light into our lives and remind us of the best things life has to offer.

I know that one of the lights in my life is the outdoors. Stepping into the world to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and hear the trees whistle in the wind is my favorite way to start any day. In the third installment of this series, we will be interviewing another person who looks towards nature for light in her life.

“Uplifted, happy and warm,” are the words spouted out when I asked 19-year-old Lina Avalos to describe how fighting for environmental justice makes her feel.

From a young age, Avalos developed a connection to nature. It brought her peace and was always something she gravitated towards immensely. She calls the southeast side of Chicago home, and during her childhood, she would walk the streets and glare at the gargantuan buildings that pushed out fumes and pollutants from every which way. She saw the way it was damaging her beloved outdoor world and the people that inhabit it. Avalos grew to despise the factories and pollutants and set out to fight against them and a myriad of other environmental injustices.

Once she began her sophomore year in high school, she dove deep into the world of activism. Whether it be organizing protests for varying causes or hosting panels with UNICEF, Avalos constantly pursues her passion, meeting and helping others throughout every step of her journey.

Avalos believes strongly in taking immediate action.

“Everyone loves to preach that we need to put an end to all these issues, but no one is doing anything,” Avalos said.

By the time she was in third grade, she was creating projects on climate change, taking shorter showers and trying to save water whenever she could. Fast forward to 2021, Avalos is an environmental economics and policy student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Currently, Avalos is spreading awareness about the New Green Deal, preparing for Earth Day in April and fulfilling the THRIVE agenda. The THRIVE agenda encompasses her goals within activism as they work towards averting environmental catastrophe, creating safe jobs and ensuring healthy lives for all. On Earth Day, you can find her planting trees with the Southeast Youth Alliance.

Avalos has helped many people throughout her experiences, and she has met amazing ones too. She has found a true home within this community.

“It’s hard to put into words how supportive the environmental justice community is and how much love and strength there is,” Avalos said.

She is captivated by the light that activism has brought into her life. Being surrounded by like-minded people and seeing the good they are doing in the world motivates Avalos more than anything. It has granted her friendships, experiences, skills and knowledge that make her even more eager to pursue this passion. She explained that countless aspects of her life would be different without activism, and she can’t even begin to form a picture of what that life would look like.

To Avalos, nothing brings her more happiness than fighting against the injustices scattered across varying communities. It’s a light in her life that she couldn’t imagine living without. She sees the irreversible damages happening in our world, on both an environmental and human level, and it fuels her passion for helping in any way she can. Always has, always will.

“I care about so many issues,” Avalos said. “It’s a giant part of who I am.”

Journalism major at the University of Florida.
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