2019 is the second hottest year on record but it was also the year of heightened awareness in terms of climate change. This was the year when the world woke up to the climate emergency with female activists leading the way. They have inspired a generation through their passion for the environment and fearlessly taking on any government and industry giant all in the name of climate action.
For this year’s International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at what these champions of climate change have been doing.
Vanessa Nakate – Uganda
Vanessa Nakate will not be silenced nor will she refuse to be taken out of the picture (literally). She is not only fighting for climate justice, but she’s now battling for diversity too!
A Ugandan climate activist, Nakate started her environmental activism in December of 2018 after noticing the impacts of climate change in her country.
“This is why my voice, and the voices of other African climate activists, need to be heard too. Our stories are urgent. Too often the media has decided these stories are dispensable – less important than things like a photo that has a nice composition.” – Vanessa Nakate
You didn't just erase a photo— Vanessa Nakate (@vanessa_vash) January 24, 2020
You erased a continent
But I am stronger than ever pic.twitter.com/J34WMXvPAo
Jamie Margolin – USA
Jamie Margolin is an 18-year-old climate activist from Seattle, Washington. She co-founded her Zero Hour Organization in the summer of 2017 when she and a group of friends decided that elected officials weren’t doing enough about climate change and that young voices needed to be heard. They organised a mass protest to ensure that young voices were front and centre of the climate issue.
In September 2019, Margolin, together with a group of young activists, sued Governor Jay Inslee and the State of Washington for, as Seattle Times describes, “violating their constitutional rights by failing to adequately regulate greenhouse gases”. The judge dismissed the case but that hasn’t stopped the young activists.
Margolin went on to testify at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs & the Climate Crisis as part of the panel called Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Change and continues to juggle her climate activism with writing a manuscript and finishing high school.
Greta Thunberg – Sweden
The 17-year-old climate activist is the youngest person to be appointed as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year after captivating the world’s attention as a solo climate protester outside the Swedish parliament when she was just 15.
Greta Thunberg‘s perseverance in school striking for climate paid off and the press, including the New York Times and BBC, amplified her message leading to the global student ‘Fridays for Future’ strikes and inspiring millions to join the movement. In September 2019, the largest worldwide climate strike in history, The Global Climate Strike, was held, led by the Fridays for Future movement.
Genesis Butler – USA
Genesis Butler is a 12-year-old wonder kid! At 10 years of age this animal rights activist and ethical vegan was already exploring the link between the environment and animal consumption. Having worked with animal welfare organisation Farm Sanctuary to promote Meatless Mondays and winning numerous awards for her activism, Butler also became the youngest TedX speaker. At this point, we need to ask ourselves that when a 10 year old can do this, why can’t we?
Oladosu Adenike – Nigeria
Oladosu Adenike a.k.a. @the_ecofeminist grew up in Nigeria and is the country’s organizer for Fridays for Future climate strikes. She is also an ambassador for Earth Uprising and African Youth Climate Hub. She founded LeadClimate an organisation to educate others about climate change, and advocates for climate policies.
“My journey into the environmental movement started when I gained admission to study agricultural economics,” Adenike tells Greenpeace. “Though I had heard about climate change before, I only realised that we were living through a climate crisis when I started studying in an area which is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in Nigeria.
“I saw farmers and herdsmen fighting because their land is becoming more arid. It took me an extra year to finish studying because of the fighting. I saw communities who had never faced flooding having their farm lands swept away, and I lost my puppies during a heatwave unlike anyone had experienced before.”
Marinel Ubaldo – Philippines
Marinel Ubaldo is a survivor of the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines. In 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, it killed over 6,000 people; some were Ubaldo’s family and friends. Losing her loved ones gave Ubaldo the reason to fight against climate change.
After this tragic experience, Ubaldo made it her business to ensure that climate justice is everyone’s business, especially those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. She traveled to New York in 2018 for New York Climate Week and got a standing ovation after telling her story.
“I’m here in front of you, not just as a climate statistic you see in the news, but I’m here as a human being? —? hoping to remind you that we need to value lives again,” Ublado said at the event. “My story is only one of many, and I’m here to speak on behalf of the vulnerable and the marginalized communities? — ?may our voices be heard.”
Brianna Fruean – Samoa
At just 21-years-old, Brianna Fruean has been fighting for climate justice for over a decade. She became the leader of a Samoan environmental group called Future Rush at age 11, became 350.org’s youngest organiser at 12 and continues to lead the offshoot group 350 Pacific Climate Warriors. At age 16, she was the youngest recipient to be named as the Pacific Region Commonwealth Youth Award winner at the Commonwealth Youth Awards 2015. Last year she was the winner of the Le Va Pacific Emerging Leadership Award for her work as an activist and environmental advocate.
Autumn Peltier – Canada
Autumn Peltier is a 15-year-old, Canadian Indigenous water activist and a member of the Wikmewikong First Nation who became a water protector or “water warrior” for the Anishinabek Nation when she was only 14. She made headlines when she questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s policies on clean water.
In 2019, Peltier also addressed world leaders at the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York on the issue of clean water and water protection.
“I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, we can’t eat money, or drink oil.” – Autumn Peltier at the 2019 UN Global Landscapes Forum.
These extraordinary girls and young women are leading the fight against climate change and as we celebrate International Women’s Day, remember how far we’ve come that they feel empowered and confident to share their powerful environmental messages with the world.
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Feature image via Twitter/@PerryBellegarde?.