Over the last five years, one of the biggest environmental stories has been the California wildfires. Every year, starting in summer and autumn, fires have torn through not only the state's forests, but also through towns and cities. And while such fires are both natural and found elsewhere in the world, the run of wildfires in California was record-breakingly dangerous. And the situation has been getting worse.
No one knows this fact better than Californians themselves. And we'd like to talk about one in particular: 15-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor.
This American is now one of the world's top young environmental activists. And she became one because she refused to accept the wildfires as a new normal.
Inspired by Greta
Back in 2018, when she was 13, wildfires forced Alexandria's family to leave their Davis, California home. She moved temporarily to her mother's place in New York City.
At the time, Greta Thunberg's story was just starting to get global attention. Alexandria decided that if Greta could start a climate strike, then she could, too. So she protested in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York. Every Friday—even in the bitter cold—she sat in front of the UN building holding signs with slogans like "School Strike 4 Change". She did this from December 2018 all the way up to March 2020—right before the pandemic.
By the time Greta arrived in New York City in September 2019 to be a part of the UN Climate Summit, Alexandria was right by her side, fighting to show how much young people demand action on climate change.
But Alexandria is not just borrowing Greta's approach. She has her own approach and drive.
In 2019, she started Earth Uprising. This youth network of climate activists is dedicated to:
Global action on climate change—our #1 demand is that world leaders urgently act in order to keep our planet below 2 degrees Celsius of warming.
Alexandria's passionate stance and dedication has made Earth Uprising one of the most influential groups of its kind around the world. She has already received numerous awards and recognitions, including being a speaker at the 2020 World Economic Forum and the 2020 Democratic National Convention. These are honours normally reserved for people at least three times her age. But her uncompromising focus and dedication has made her a force that people can't ignore.
Protesting every Friday for a year and a half and starting your own global network will do that!
New year, new story
Of course, it's easy to look at someone like Alexandria and feel in awe. Not all of us are cut out for such work. And sometimes the situation regarding climate change can feel too big to tackle. But in a recent interview with Mashable, she said something really interesting about getting involved.
"Find out your climate story," she said. "'How are you being impacted by the climate crisis?' From there, you can find out what you want to do about that."
As 2020 draws to a close, we've been so inspired by young people who are finding their climate story—or their story of race or nation or other social issues—and telling it to the world like it is. For Alexandria, that story began with the wildfires. What's your story?
No matter what it is, we're so excited to see how you tell it in 2021!