Elijah McKenzie-Jackson, Tolmeia
Gregory, Amanda Costa and Txai Suruí
Goal 13: Climate Action
youthquake 2022: the activists shaking up the world
Meet the 9 #TOGETHERBAND Ambassadors starring in our new film
By emma elms and hannah rochell
translation: daniel avelar
22 december 2021
They’ve been on the cover of Time Magazine, spoken on global stages at climate conferences and even starred in their own feature-length documentaries. Youth climate activists, most of whom are Gen Z whose whole lives have been defined by the climate emergency, are grabbing the attention of the world. And rightly so. In the words of Greta Thunberg, ‘We can’t wait for us to be the ones in charge, because we don’t have time for that.’
It was their spirit and tenacity that meant we heard their voices shouting loudest from COP26, rather than those of presidents and business leaders. It was their speeches, actions and Instagram accounts that grabbed headlines in 2021, from Ugandan Vanessa Nakate fighting for climate justice in Africa and Brit Mikaela Loach taking the UK Government to court, to Txai Suruí and Alice Pataxó raising awareness about the rights and plight of Indigenous peoples in Latin America, which is the most dangerous place in the world to be an environmental activist.
This growing climate youthquake has succeeded in getting the world to sit up and listen to them because it’s much harder, even for a hardened climate change sceptic, to dismiss youth activists and school-age children. Unlike politicians and scientists, they are relatable. They are part of all of our families. And the future is theirs. Here are some of the voices to listen to in 2022.
Txai, 24, is an Indigenous activist from Brazil. She addressed heads of state during the opening speeches at COP26 in Glasgow in November.
‘Indigenous peoples are affected by both the causes of climate change – deforestation, forest fires and illegal mining – and the consequences. For example, our crops don‘t grow as they used to and we’ve noticed that some of our sacred, medicinal plants that are used for our spirituality can no longer be found. This is affecting our culture itself. The animals we hunt to eat are disappearing because of deforestation and our village is much warmer than it used to be.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I would like the world to know and understand what’s happening inside Indigenous lands. The Amazon is essential to the planet because it balances the equilibrium.’
Follow Txai @txaisurui
Amanda, 25, is an anti-racist ecofeminist from Brazil. She is also a young UN ambassador and in 2021 was included in Forbes #Under30 list.
‘For a long time, the climate crisis seemed like a white debate from the Global North, but my mission is to show that Black people from the Global South and the favelas can also talk about this and be part of the solutions to these challenges. If we just have white men in power they will develop politics for other white men in power.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘In 2022, I would like to see a sustainable agenda that puts race and gender at the centre of everything. If we listen to people who are at the grassroots, Black people, quilombolos people [Afro-Brazilian residents of quilombo settlements], Indigenous people and the youth, then we can construct another possibility for our future. I would like to build a bridge between these groups and politicians, CEOs and decision-makers to accelerate the transformation that’s already happening.’
Follow Amanda @souamandacosta
Tolmeia, 21, climate justice activist and digital artist, UK
‘Growing up, I wanted to be a fashion designer, which led me into sustainability and climate work. I started a fashion blog when I was 11 and a few years later I learned about the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory. Over 1000 garment workers were killed when the factory collapsed and many more were injured. It was a lightbulb moment because it made me realise the industry I wanted to go into was devastating the planet and other people’s lives, so I’ve been on a learning journey ever since.
‘My work involves producing art to help people connect with climate issues and also staging direct action. Last year, I sat in an H&M shop window to target their greenwashing and use of child activists. That had a very positive impact online and in real life – their window display was taken down the next day.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I’d like to see legislation and policies in place to ensure that fashion doesn’t continue polluting the planet. We need to stop producing as much fast fashion as we do. My other hope for 2022 focuses on climate justice. Whatever action we take has to be rooted in justice and take account of the people who are most affected by climate change, whether that’s people in the Global South or even those in the Global North who are affected by issues like environmental racism.’
Follow Tolmeia @tolmeia
Vitória, 25, is a Brazilian activist. As a transgender woman, she faces daily prejudice.
‘Both transphobia and racism are very pronounced in Brazil. The people, especially Black and Indigenous communities, who are being marginalised in Brazil are the youth population, who have been historically ignored by world leaders but are now seeking to solve our country’s major problems through campaigning.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I’d like to see a structural change in Brazil with the youth playing a significant role in this. I want the youth not only to be at the centre of decisions, but also to be designing and implementing policies that help build social justice.’
Follow Vitória @vitoriapgalvao_
Mahryan, 21, feminst campaigner and UN youth ambassador, Brazil
‘I’m a young Black woman fighting injustice in Brazil and the rest of the world. When I was 12 years old I realised that the world will discriminate against me for things I didn’t choose, so I have to project my voice to say that’s unfair and fight these inequalities. The biggest challenge for feminists in Brazil is to deal with the rise of the ultra-Conservative government because we have President Bolsonaro. It’s very difficult for us. As a young Black woman, it scares me.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I believe we can’t have a better world if the world is unequal. The first step is to mobilise more women and girls to fight with us, but we also have to bring boys and men to fight with us too. In 2022, we have to fix the gender inequality in this world.’
Follow Mahryan @mahryan
Isaias, 25, is an environmental educator from the US. He speaks to his 100k Instagram following about everything from veganism to biodegradable glitter.
‘The modern environmental movement has been dominated by cis white men, especially within the West. I believe that the climate crisis is an educational crisis and we need localised solutions to provide equitable environmental education for all young people.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I would like to achieve more diversity within the environmental movement. For me, being a person of colour and being queer is a gift, so I can empower other young queer people of colour to feel comfortable in who they are and to allow diversity within the environmental space.’
Follow Isaias @queerbrownvegan
Samela, 25, is an Indigenous environmental activist and digital creator from Brazil.
‘My activism is about the struggle for demarcation of Indigenous territories. Indigenous peoples have been activists for a very long time, because since the invasion we have been in a struggle to defend our territory. We, the Indigenous youth, do not choose to become activists. We are born into the struggle, so we are born activists.
‘People need to have collective responsibility for the Amazon, even if they are far away in other countries. People can help by choosing country representatives who defend environmental issues – the animals, plants and biodiversity.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I believe people can take practical action in their daily lives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2022, I’d like to see more people reducing their water consumption, buying food from sustainable sources and not supporting companies that have a big environmental impact.’
Follow Samela @sam_sateremawe
Ellen, 22, is a climate and vegan activist from Brazil. She uses her Instagram account to discuss accessible and anti-racist plant-based food.
‘I’ve been vegan for five years, but I know it’s not realistic for the whole world to become vegan. It’s crazy because people eat a lot of processed foods here in Brazil instead of fresh. We have so many diverse vegetables but people don’t appreciate that or choose to eat them on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s cheaper than eating cheese or meat. There’s a sense in Brazil that veganism is very expensive but I’m part of a movement called ‘Popular Veganism’. We aim to show that people can live in favelas and still be vegan, you can be poor and still be vegan. We see veganism as a political fight.’
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I want people in Brazil to become more aware of what they’re eating; of the stages the food passes through before it comes to your house. I would like nutrition to be taught in schools.’
Follow Ellen @eco.fada
Elijah, 17, climate activist, artist and student, UK
‘The climate crisis and the refugee emergency are intersectional. The refugee emergency will only worsen through climate inaction. Our world leaders are heading in a direction of authoritarianism with regards to immigration laws, putting refugees in an even more dangerous situation (legally and socially). By 2050, one billion people will be displaced by the climate crisis. Not only this, but fossil fuel extraction has previously led to extreme conflict which could increase this figure too. With little support and infrastructure to deal with this consequence of climate change, many more innocent people from marginalised communities will suffer.
MY HOPE FOR 2022: ‘I’m fighting for Climate justice. In 2022, I want to see systematic solutions to climate change which addresses social inequality and reparation for all deserving including refugees.’
Follow Elijah @elijahmckenziejackson
Film by Harvey Marcus