The young activists stepping up to defend the planet
Global temperature rise, shrinking ice sheets, sea level rise, extreme weather events and ocean acidification all indicate the unequivocal fact that our climate is changing rapidly. This unprecedented climate change is caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases, as a result of human activity since the mid-20th century. It is already causing devastating effects to the planet and the people who live there. Without immediate action to reduce emissions, these effects will continue to intensify, grow ever more costly and damaging, and increasingly affect the entire planet.
The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms while rising sea levels will leave many places uninhabitable.
Despite indisputable evidence that current climate changes are caused by human activity, some global leaders have been reluctant to make the changes necessary to put the planet and its people before profits – continuing to back industries contributing to global warming.
Earth Guardians refuse to accept this lack of action and in some cases, blatant disregard for the planet and future generations. They are growing a resilient movement with youth at the forefront by empowering young people to become leaders and amplifying their impact. Their mission is to protect the planet for future generations, believing that their age doesn't define their ability to create change. Their young team began by teaching young people about political participation and activism, organising local public actions to raise awareness of environmental damage. They have since grown to include a network of thousands of engaged young people in “crews” on six continents. Earth Guardians give young people the tools and encouragement to make measurable change in their communities.
Several teenagers from Earth Guardians are currently suing the Trump administration for violating their constitutional rights by failing to act on climate change. The 21 young people brought the lawsuit against the Obama administration in 2015 and despite attempts by both administrations to dismiss the case, it will go to trial on October 29th, 2018. Members are also involved in local cases of environmental action, which have had incredible results, including a landmark court victory against fracking in Bolder, Colorado. Six teenagers from Earth Guardians sued the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), arguing that the state regulatory agency is legally bound to put public health and safety first when permitting oil and gas developments — not to balance the needs of the public and industry, as COGCC and the state argue. The court ruled in their favour, meaning the commission can no longer decide to prioritise oil and gas development over the health and safety of Coloradans.
Legal actions are just one of Earth Guardians’ tools for creating change. As youth director, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez says, “From the streets to the courtroom, the voices of the younger generation will be heard, and the legal system is a tool for our resistance. Small wins build up to create massive change." Their activism, campaigning and direct actions also draw attention to violations of environmental rights and inspire young people to work towards positive changes in their own communities around the world.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez’s bestselling book We Rise is an action guide on how to face the biggest problems of today, including climate change, environmental racism, fossil fuel extraction and industrial agriculture.