The next instalment in our weekly environmental activism blogs is here!
Date Created: 22nd Mar 2022
In the next instalment of our new blog series, we’re travelling (virtually) to Canada and Amsterdam to discover more about the next two young people in the ‘hot seat’. In this post, find out more about Autumn Peltier and Lilly Platt, both of whom are making waves in their own ways and fighting to make their voices heard.
Autumn Peltier – 17, Wikwemikong First Nation/Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada
‘Water Warrior’ Autumn Peltier may only be 17, but her youth, and the inexperience that is often (wrongly) perceived by the world to accompany it, hasn’t limited her. She is proudly Anishinaabe-Kwe Indigenous, and has Ojibway/Odawa heritage. As a successful local figure, she holds the position of Chief Water Commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation, appointed in 2019 (succeeding her ‘water walker’ great-aunt Josephine Mandamin, who previously held the post), about whom she says “carrying on her legacy is one of the most important things to me”.
Her main activist focus centres on clean drinking water, and the issues her community has experienced first-hand. This was sparked from learning at the Serpent River First Nation – ‘A Self Sufficient People Within A Community Of Caring And Compassionate Families’, at the age of eight. Like Little Miss Flint, she finds it appalling that in the 21st century, and in a developed nation such as hers, that this is still even an issue – “my mom explained to me that the community had been on a boiled-water advisory for over 10 years. I was shocked.” Children shouldn’t have to be the ones to draw the world’s attention to lack of basic amenities such as these, but they are often the most effective at doing so.
Autumn certainly hasn’t shied away from doing this, as was demonstrated when she addressed the UN in 2018 when she was only 13, and the again the following year. Before that, aged 12, she held her own in a discussion with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec. After rebelliously grilling him about the lack of clean water progress so far, and reproaching “I am very unhappy with the choices you’ve made”, she made him promise “I will protect the water.”
Her activism spans accolades and successes like speaking alongside Greta Thunberg, nominations for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 2018 and 2019, being interviewed as a Woman of Influence in 2019, attending the World Water Conference in Stockholm as a Keynote Speaker, and just last year having the 2021 RevolutionHer Community Vision Youth Award was bestowed upon her.
Autumn’s perseverance in the wake of opinions like “she’s just a kid, what can she do?” and “why does what she says matter?” is commendable, and is indictive of the spirit and tenacity needed to maintain and revolutionise the fight for a clean planet. This can only be achieved by those such as Autumn acting as role models for younger generations, and through not capitulating in the face of adversity. In her own words – “what kind of mentor would I be if I was to give up and let people get to me?” You can learn more about her work through following her on Twitter @AutumnPeltier1 and Instagram @autumn.peltier, and by searching her name on Facebook.
[1st phrasing used from the Kidadl website piece ‘Who Is Autumn Peltier? Everything You Need To Know About Her’. 2nd phrasing, 2nd 3rd and 4th quotes from The Canadian Encyclopedia’s profile on her. 1st, 5th 6th and 7th quotes from Maclean’s website article ‘Autumn Peltier on youth activism, challenging Trudeau and a future in politics’. 3rd phrase from the Serpent River First Nation’s site homepage. Image credit to Autumn’s Twitter account.]
Lilly Platt – 13, Amsterdam, Netherlands/London, U.K
Sometimes, activists are made from a combination of chance, observation, and more than a dash of motivation. Lilly Platt is one such individual, discovering the need to halt plastic pollution in an urban environment. She moved from London to the Netherlands in 2015 aged six, and in her first months there, started to develop her Dutch. On a walk with her Grandpa, he suggested she practice counting in Dutch by tallying up the plastic on the ground. They were shocked to count 91 pieces of plastic in 15 minutes, and Lilly held the view this showed that “throughout history, humanity has lost its green heart but I believe that children still have theirs. All they have to do is share it with the world.” This walk sparked a determination that became Lilly’s Plastic Pickup.
Her initiative gained momentum, and she racked up views on her Facebook page (where she separates every single piece of plastic she finds, which now stands at hundreds of thousands). She grew in confidence, and after being inspired by Greta Thunberg’s striking and speech on the Paris Agreement, began her own strikes in September 2018. This was no mean feat, as schools in the Netherlands have a tight absence policy, but she was granted special leave every week to hold her strikes outside the town hall.
Sadly, like most other environmentalists, Lilly has experienced criticism and derision, often from her school peers. Her Mum shields her from the majority though, and she knows the best way of dealing with negativity is continuing to do what you know is right, and educate others where possible. An effective way to achieve this is by highlighting personal and direct connections to the effects of plastic pollution. Lilly’s main motivation is the distressing thought of animals and sea creatures mistaking plastic for food, and consuming it, which affects the circle of life. If micro/nanoplastics end up in the sea, they’re eaten by plankton, which are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by bigger fish, which are eaten by us! She breaks this down in a personable and engaging way in her TED Talk, in which she impassions “we are eating fish that had plastic in it’s stomach. So… that means, plastic is in us. Yikes!”
Since Lilly’s Plastic Pickup began, she’s garnered a lot of media interest and expanded her efforts. She’s had to adapt during the covid-19 outbreak when schooling became remote and she had to take her strikes digital. Lilly’s been named in the top 100 of influencers against Plastic Pollution by Onalytia, and received several awards, including the Eco Hero Award, the Children’s Rights Award, and the Lijintje for Oustanding Achievement. She was also honoured when invited by the President of Egypt to speak at the World Youth Forum, as well as speaking at a UN World Oceans Day conference. Lilly’s dedication to campaigning against littering, sexism and general inequality is admirable. Her vision is “I want to see no climate change. I want to see no plastic in the water and animals…not living in fear of humans killing them! And I want to see trees growing and not being chopped down… We should never take nature for granted. Because if this planet goes, then so do we.” Follow it on Instagram @lillys_plastic_pickup and on Twitter @lillyspickup and Facebook @lillysplasticpickup.
[1st quote from Earth.org’s article ‘Lilly Platt: Meet Earth.Org’s First Global Ambassador!’, 2nd and 3rd quotes from her TEDxYouth@BSN talk ‘Changing the World one Piece of Plastic at a time.’ Image credit to Lilly’s Twitter account.]
We’d love you to read the other blogs in this series, and all our new website content. If you’re curious about our general environmental work, you can check out the main page and links here, and don’t forget to keep an eye on our socials for announcements and updates!