Taking our thirst for sustainable improvement into 2022 and beyond!
Date Created: 3rd Mar 2022
If you’ve been following Artswork for a while, you’ll know we’re passionate about championing young people, and also about preserving our planet through sustainability. You’ve probably also seen that we combined these two topics into a series of profiles on notable young environmentalists in the last months of 2021. These social media posts gleaned high reach and engagement and helped to inspire our plan for a new project this year, in line with our Environmental Action Plan. Then we thought – there must be many more amazing young people that are standing up to defend the earth, and it would be great to discover them and share their inspirational journeys with you. Enter former Kickstart ‘reporter’ Grace, who’s hopped back onto the investigative train, with her first blog on this topic.
I must admit that like most people, the first name I hear when people say ‘young climate activist’ is Greta Thunberg. And before I began this journey of discovery into youth activism, I had no idea of just how many others are doing amazing work. And of course, she has made waves where we previously thought there was no room for negotiation, refused to back down in the face of scorn, and celebrated her neuro-divergence proudly, as she should. It’s often the case though that when there is a prominent figure heading up a movement and they receive great attention, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Greta is the tip and the iceberg is massive – so read on if you want to learn about just a fraction of her peers who are planting their feet firmly in the soil.
Isra Hirsi – 18, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Isra is only 18 and is already making huge differences in her local community. The daughter of a Congresswoman, and a notable achiever in her own right, Isra is a Black Muslim woman with parents who immigrated from Somalia. She uses her lived experience to campaign for climate and racial justice, and is a fierce Black Lives Matter activist. Her biggest achievement to date has been co-organising the Global Climate Strike on March 15th, 2019, citing frustration that “instead of taking action on the imminent threat of climate change, our leaders play political games” as the driver for the strike, alongside the contributing factors of white supremacy, colonialism and capitalism. She’s also inspired by American predecessors who have introduced new programmes while up against tough opposition, such as the New Deal, first proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, and she declared that “change is always difficult, but it shouldn’t be shied away from”.
Driven by her desire for political, ecological and social change; but also for racial change – she particularly focuses on change within debate groups and environmental causes. In her February 2020 Ted Talk ‘The Angry Black Girl’ she speaks of being “insanely tired of the immense exclusion and…the complete erasure of black and brown voices in climate spaces.” Isra spoke of her motivations, and how she can only relate to the climate crisis through imagining the issues her relatives and kin may have in Somalia (she grew up in a city and couldn’t afford to travel to natural spaces). Her pride at being a Black woman in conservation is palpable, and encourages those from similar backgrounds to join the cause. She makes her writing and speaking emotive and personal. Why not watch her full TED talk here: The Angry Black Girl | Isra Hirsi | TEDxWakeForestU, and follow her on social media – Twitter and Instagram @israhirsi.
[1st and 2nd quote credits to the article ‘Adults won’t take climate change seriously. So we, the youth, are forced to strike’, co-authored with Haven Coleman and Alexandria Villaseñor on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website. 3rd quote from ‘The Angry Black Girl’, on the TEDx Talks YouTube channel. Image credit to Isra’s Twitter account.]
Mari Copeny – 14, Flint, Michigan
Globally known as ‘Little Miss Flint’ and self-described as a ‘philanthropist, activist and future President’, what Mari has achieved already is extraordinary. Her determination to be involved in activism and clean-water campaigning started in 2016. The area’s water supply was normally sourced from Lake Huron, but after it switched to the Flint River, it was found to contain toxically elevated levels of lead, and the town was put in a state of emergency. Although Mari was only 8, she wrote to then President Barack Obama. She’d hoped he’d meet with her and others in Washington, but he surprised them all by visiting the affected area, and allocating $100 million to treat the problem.
Since then, Mari’s work and notability has catapulted, and she’s been involved with several organisations and causes. These include Pack Your Back (providing backpacks and supplies for local children), raising $280,000 in 2018 for bottled water once the local authorities had stopped supplying it, and in 2019 partnering with Hydroviv to create her own filter for removing toxins from water across America.
Not only this, but she’s boosted Black representation for those younger than her – the Lottie doll company has created a likeness, she’s a youth ambassador for Equality for Her and the People’s Climate March, and is the youngest ambassador for the Women’s March on Washington. Add that to coverage in numerous publications such as VICE, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and NBC News (and others); and her goal of running for President in 2044 is well within reach. She says “my generation will fix this mess of a government. Watch us.” Give it long enough, she might just be head of government. Follow her on Twitter @LittleMissFlint and Instagram @littlemissflint to see what she does next!
[Self-described phrase and quote credit to her homepage on maricopeny.com, photo credit to Mari’s Twitter account.]
We hope you enjoyed this first blog post in our new series, all part of Our Environmental Journey, and please look out for the next one in the series, coming too our site very soon. In the meantime, keep checking out our socials for content we’re posting and sharing.