My name is Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and I am a 13-year-old Indigenous Environmental Activist. I have been speaking out about our environmental and climate crisis since I was six years old. I am the executive youth director of a nonprofit organization called Earth Guardians. We are committed to protecting the Earth, the water, the air, and the future of the children. Through Earth Guardians I am working to mobilize my generation, the “Change Generation,” to work together on behalf of leaving a healthy, just, sustainable world for ours and future generations. We now have Earth Guardian hubs all over the globe and our movement is growing.
I live in Boulder, Colorado, and in the last week I have been personally experiencing the extremes of our changing climate with severe flooding because of crazy weather patterns above our state. NOAA, our scientific center that sits up on the mountain above Boulder, reported that the storm we have been experiencing could be a 500 or 1000 year storm because this much rainfall in this short of a period has never been recorded in the history of Colorado. They shared an image from space that showed an unusual weather pattern above our state that was spiraling in two different directions, one pulling moisture from the Gulf Coast and the other pulling moisture from up North, colliding into this fierce storm we are now experiencing.
Seeing the magnitude, the destruction, the death and the damage from this unusual storm is a clear indication that something is off balance with our changing world, because of our changing climate!
Some people think Climate Change is something that is far away on the other side of the world, but truthfully it is something that is in all of our back yards! People don’t see that we are all connected and that what happens far away in the world affects us all because we all share the same Earth. As our climate continues to warm and glaciers melt at unprecedented rates, oceans are acidifying and rising, small islands are starting to disappear, weather patterns are changing, and many of us just go on and on, blind to the future we are creating and leaving for future children.
A lot of people relate sustainability to things like alternative energy, solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal, but I believe that true sustainability is the way we live our lives each and every day. It is a way of life.
We have to change our life styles so we are not relying so much on any source of energy. We have to change the fundamental beliefs of our entire society and shift towards a life style of simplicity where we don’t need as many material things, the biggest house, and more than one car to feel successful. This mindset has put us in the greatest man-made disaster in human history—our ecological and climate crisis. One of the biggest problems is that our generation is being taught to live the same way and make the same mistakes. We aren’t being educated to walk lightly and respect the Earth. Our disconnection from the Earth and our life styles are destroying our own life support systems.
Clean renewable energy is a great alternative to fossil fuels but as long as we continue with the same mindset of taking more and more we are always going to need more and more energy whether it comes from sustainable energy sources or fossil fuels. Something many people don’t think about is the amount of resources it will take, and the destruction it will cause, to put a sustainable energy infrastructure into place. By building more solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal plants, we will still be taking more from the Earth than we are giving back! We can not continue living life as if there are endless resources.
Many people are waking up and realizing this crisis that we are in, but is it enough and will it be in time? Youth are rising up all over the planet to meet the challenges we face as the next generation that will inherit this beautiful planet. We have the power to inspire and create a movement towards building a sustainable, healthy, and just world. Together we can change the fundamental beliefs of our entire society and learn to live more lightly on our sacred earth.
I try to live my life as an example for others by making conscious decisions that are best for the planet, but I am only one person and I don’t have all the answers. What matters most is our collective and cumulative impact. This is why the government’s Public Trust obligation—to protect vital natural resources on behalf of citizens and future generations—is so important. We truly need government to help us know what our collective impact is and what limits need to be placed on that impact, and to help us find alternatives to carbon sources of energy and transportation. We can try hard as individuals to do this guesswork, but we really need guidance about our collective responsibility, and that must come from government fulfilling its Public Trust obligation. That’s why youth who will inherit this world are asking government to step up and do its job by protecting natural resources that we depend on for our survival and health.
In October 2013, youth from across the US filed their legal briefs in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, demanding the federal appeals court issue a decision upholding our rights to a safe atmosphere under the Constitution and allowing us to get a science-based climate recovery plan from the Obama Administration. And here in Colorado, I’m holding my state government responsible by submitting a petition for rulemaking that asks Colorado to take action on fracking. The legal actions youth are taking across the country are part of the TRUST Campaign and are possible only because of the work of Our Children’s Trust. This great nonprofit organization is leading the TRUST Campaign and supporting young people like me to stand up for our rights to a livable planet. Please check out ourchildrenstrust.org to learn more about the campaign and to support the continuation of this important work by making a donation.