It’s International Youth Day on August 12th so we are celebrating the activism of some exceptional young environmentalists from around the world. Fridays for Future and the Sunrise Movement have proven just how motivated and effective young people are in the fight for climate justice but even those activists seem old compared to these guys! The eldest climate activist on the list is just 16 years old. Get ready to feel like an underachiever…
A fast-fashion brand recently launched a new campaign focusing on young activists. The eye-catching campaign strikes a resemblance to the environmental group, Extinction Rebellion, with bright colours and handwritten fonts in a clever move to align their brand with social and environmental action. The campaign itself is brilliant – it’s full of hope and champions the work and activism of some of the youngest climate activists who are creating positive change in their communities.
Sadly, their business practices do not reflect the language in their marketing campaigns. Sadder still, the fast-fashion giants have used young children to not only greenwash their brand but also to sell their newest children’s clothing range.
We wanted to take the good parts of that campaign and highlight some of the young environmentalists who are inspiring us right now.
Without further ado, the mini eco-warriors we are celebrating!
Ridhima Pandey, 13, India
Ridhima is a passionate young climate activist from India. She is perhaps best known for her being one of the complainants, along with Greta Thunberg and 16 other youth activists, in a legal case against several nations’ failure to take action against the climate crisis. Uttarakhand, where Ridhima is from, is an area of India that is especially vulnerable to flooding. Heavy rains, flash floods and landslides have devastated her local community with many losing their homes and even their lives. Pandey, then just 9 years old, was spurred into action and filed a case against the Indian government on the grounds that they had not taken the significant steps against climate change that they had agreed to in the Paris Agreement.
Ridhima is now a TEDx speaker and has been awarded ‘BBC 100 women of 2020’ award for her work in climate activism.
You can follow Ridhima on Twitter.
Lance Lau Hin-yi, 12, Hong Kong
Barely in double digits, Lance started staging solo Fridays for Future protests outside his school since 2019. A dedicated student, he agreed with his teachers that he would still attend lessons, opting for activism before and after school and during break times. On weekends, he takes his signs to the shopping malls. The young climate activist is fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English and uses his remarkable language skills to engage everyone he meets in the climate emergency. At first, he was met with ridicule but Lance quickly won hearts and minds with his passion – and with the cupcakes, he bakes at home and hands out to people working in the community.
Lance regularly organises beach cleans with his friends and family.
Ella & Caitlin McEwan, 10 and 8, UK
Meet the sister duo who convinced Burger King to ditch plastic toys! Ella and Catilin were 7 and 9 at the time they first tried their hands as youth climate activists. The pair started a petition against plastic toys in fast food meals, which went viral and caught the attention of Burger King and McDonald’s. The sisters appeared on a BBC programme called ‘War on Plastic’ where they helped take a trailer load of plastic Happy Meal toys to McDonald’s headquarters in the UK. Their petition collected over 400,000 signatures and as a result of Ella and Catilin’s campaign, Burger King agreed to remove plastic toys from its kid’s meals and McDonald’s now give customers the option to choose between a toy and a piece of fruit.
The McEwan sisters have won several accolades for their activism, including the Future Leader Award at the UK Climate Coalition’s Green Heart Hero Awards.
Yola Mgogwana, 13, South Africa
This bright young climate activist hails from Cape Town, South Africa. Mgogwana’s activism started in 2019 when she became concerned with pollution in her home town and noticed the shift in weather patterns happening in her community as a result of climate change. She joined the Earthchild Project, a non-profit that provides educational resources that are “holistic, focused on health and wellness, life skills and the environment through different programmes integrated with the school’s curriculum.” As part of the programme, Mgogwana grows organic vegetables and monitors water and energy consumption at her school.
In 2019 Yola joined a youth climate strike and seized the opportunity to speak to an audience of over 2,000 young activists. She continues to mobilise and inspire as a spokesperson and was a keynote speaker at the UNFPA’s symposium on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Gender and Climate Change Resilience in Johannesburg.
Lilly Platt, 12, The Netherlands
At the age of just 7, Lilly noticed a startling amount of plastic out on a walk with her grandfather. When she learned about the perils of plastic in the environment, she knew she had to do something. Through ‘Lilly’s Plastic Pickup‘, she picks up litter, sorts the pieces meticulously and then posts them on social media so as to raise awareness on the issue and call out the companies responsible. Platt has picked up more than 100,000 pieces of trash, over the years! Platt is now an active member of the youth movement Fridays for Future and became the longest standing school striker in the Netherlands with 56 weeks under her belt.
She has received several awards for work as a youth climate activist, including a “Lijntje” award for Outstanding Achievement and an International Eco Hero Award, and she is to be presented with the Children’s Rights Award.
Follow Lilly on Instagram here.
Mari Copeny, 14, US
You might know her as “Little Miss Flint”. Mari Copeny started her journey as a youth climate activist at just 8 years old when she started raising awareness about the water crisis in her hometown, Flint Michigan. Her first action was to write a letter to President Obama which ultimately led to $100 million dollars in relief for the city of Flint.
Now 14, Mari continues to campaign for clean water as well as getting involved with community fundraising. In 2016, she raised $10,000 to fund 1,000 backpacks for local children. She has also raised over $250k and given away over a million bottles of bottled water to families who are still without clean drinking water. As her work progressed, Copeny wanted to reduce the amount of plastic being used to address the clean water shortage. How? She partnered with a company called Hydroviv to produce her own water filter and move away from single-use plastic bottles.
Copeny has spoken in front of the White House, the Science March in Washington D.C and at the United Nations Girl Up Leadership Conference.
Ryan Hickman, 11, US
One of the youngest climate activists on our list, Ryan Hickman has been named one of the 100 Most Influential People of Orange County, California and one of Readers Digest’s Top Kids of the Decade Changing the World! Ryan’s mission is to prevent as much waste as possible from reaching the ocean by recycling. Only 7 years old, Hickman created his own recycling business – ‘Ryan’s Recycling’ and caught the attention of daytime television host, Ellen DeGeneres. You can watch his adorable interview here. To date, his business has recycled and outstanding 1,383,332 cans and bottles and raised $13,389 for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Lucia Torresi, 10, Hong Kong
Lucia started her own green business, with her mom, when she was 9 years old. The mother-daughter duo founded ‘Eco Parties‘ to cut down on unnecessary single-use plastic created by kids’ parties. Their solution? A rental service that allows you to swap balloons for bunting and paper napkins, plates and cutlery for gorgeous reusables. Their prints cover a variety of fun themes and to sweeten the deal – they deliver and pick up for cleaning.
Lucia regularly joins in Fridays for Future demos and has already begun her public speaking journey and The Conscious Festival in Hong Kong in 2019.
Lesein Mutunkei, 16, Kenya
Footballer and youth climate activist, Lesein Mutunkei combined his two passions after learning about climate change and plastic pollution aged 11. He started the ‘Trees for Goals’ initiative, committing to plant a tree for every goal he scores. Lesein has encouraged his school and his football club to adopt an environmentally conscious attitude, too. Inspired by his trees campaign, the school basketball team created ‘Hoops for Trees’.
Lesein was invited by the UN to attend the first Youth Climate Summit in New York in 2019 and has been a feature in local and international media. He has also won a plethora of awards for his contribution to climate activism including the Eco–Hero International 2020 Award and the Green Kids Award.
Ralyn (Lilly) Satidtanasarn, 13, Thailand
Inspired by young activists from around the world, Lilly is tackling plastic waste in Thailand. She has been talking to leaders in politics and business about pollution caused by single-use plastic and has already convinced a major supermarket in Bangkok to stop giving out plastic bags in its stores once a week. 7-eleven has also pledged to stop handing out single-use plastic bags by January next year.
Lilly regularly strikes for climate change and joined a ‘die-in‘ protest in 2019 in front of Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Jude Walker, 11, UK
Jude is so dedicated to climate activism that he has embarked on a 200-mile, 20 day walk from Hebden Bridge all the way to London. This is to raise awareness of a campaign to convince the UK government to introduce a carbon tax. Juda has already caught the attention of local and national news and his phenomenal efforts have been boosted by veteran campaigners like Gina Martin!
Jude has been tireless writing to MPs and has even met with several in person as he makes his way from West Yorkshire to Westminster. You can follow Jude’s journey on Instagram and if you are in the UK, you can sign the petition here. The goal is 100,000 signatures by Aug 17th so every signature and share counts.
IMAGE: Photo by MaTi on Unsplash IMAGE DESCRIPTION: In the centre of the photo is a homemade sign that reads ‘Fighting for our Future’. The person holding it up has their back to the camera and they are surrounded by a group of people holding signs at what would appear to be a protest or demonstration.
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