On paper, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a pretty impressive 16-year-old. His achievements are almost too long to list, but let’s give it a go.
By age 12, Xiuhtezcatl had already organised more than 35 protests and rallies. In 2013, President Obama gave him a national community service award. In 2014, he performed a TED Talk which also showcased his hip hop skills. In 2015, he borrowed a suit to address the UN on environmental policy and the future of his generation. He is the youth director of a worldwide organisation that inspires and unites young people in the fight against climate change. It’s called Earth Guardians.
There’s more, but nothing about his demeanour makes you feel inadequate. In fact, seeing his face light up as he tells the story of suing the US Government for their inaction over climate change is inspiring.
“In 2015, myself and 20 other young plaintiffs sued the US government. We’re holding the US Government accountable for violating our constitutional right to life, liberty and property by failing to take action on climate change and for passing laws to protect the very industries who created this crisis in the first place,” Xiuhtezcatl told The Huffington Post Australia.
“We are demanding the government puts climate recovery plans in place to massively reduce and cut our greenhouse gas emissions until we’re at a safe level in the global climate.”
The greatest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs is happening. Right now. We’re facing that.
A motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied last year, and the lawyers now plan to take it to the federal court in the coming months.”I believe we have a chance to win and if we do, even though Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, it will force his administration, it will force his government to make massive leaps towards cutting greenhouse gasses,” Xiuhtezcatl said.
“That could be one of the greatest wins in the climate movement. Ever. So I have a lot of hope in this movement.”
“It’s a very innocent ask. We’re asking that the politicians do their job, to protect our future from climate disaster.”
And what about the facts?
Well, for starters, there’s nothing ‘alternative’ about them.
“The greatest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs is happening. Right now. We’re facing that.”
“All the politicians and leaders in the world are largely responsible for letting humanity get to a point where we are no longer living in balance with nature. I think the politicians have a responsibility to see that climate change is not an issue that is separate from fighting for human rights.
I don’t think yelling at people for not agreeing with you is a successful way to get them to be on your side.
“Turning your back on climate change is turning your back on every climate refugee, on every family that has lost their home, their community and their life because of the climate crisis. Floods, typhoons and tornadoes, heatwaves and droughts — those things are real. Those things affect people. Climate change is not just an environmental issue for the left greenies, it’s an issue that affects every human being on the planet.”
For someone who has faced his fair share of climate change deniers, Xiuhtezcatl has an extremely calm and positive presence.
“I don’t think yelling at people for not agreeing with you is a successful way to get them to be on your side.”
“I like to try to find a mid-ground with people who don’t believe the science and the reality of climate change. There are certain instances where my energy is better spent giving hope and inspiration to people who do care than people who aren’t going to turn around.”
So that’s how he spends his time — inspiring young people, just like him, to give a damn about their future.
“When young people see that their voices have power, that their actions can make a difference and the world needs them to be engaged citizens now, that empowers them to be part of something bigger than themselves.
“We have to continue as a society to give power back to the youth because they will be the ones to fight for change and in a lot of instances, more so than I believe our leaders will.”
And when you see our leaders yelling about this…
And even a bit of this…
You start to think he might be onto something.
Xiuhtezcatl is currently in Australia doing a series of talks. More details on how to catch one of his shows available here.