We are the generation that is either going to end with the earth or change everything (Part 1)

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Xiuhtezcatl (center) with his brother and close friend at the UNICEF offices in New York.

Xiuhtezcatl (center) with his brother and close friend at the UNICEF offices in New York.

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is a 13 year old environmental activist from Boulder, Colorado in the USA. He was in New York this week for the UN General Assembly side events and Voices of Youth had the opportunity to speak to this remarkable young man.

Part One

VOY: How are you involved in civic and social activism?

I’ve been involved in activism since I was 6 years old when I did my first public speaking engagement, and since then I’ve been working in my community with other young people to really improve my community. I get to travel all around the world, trying to inspire and educate youth through my group Earth Guardians. We’re a group of community youth that are working to involve young people in issues that are going to affect their future and the kind of world they’re going to grow up in.

VOY: You don’t often hear of young people getting involved in activism from such an early age, can you tell us a bit of background?

My parents were both activists and I grew up in a really aware community. I was also raised in the Aztec tradition by my father, so I think that through that I have grown up with a deep connection to the earth, and to the land; you know just with the realization that we are all connected and that all life should be protected. So through that, and being in and out of ceremonies my entire life, I just think that with the activism all around me I was inspired to do something about the kind of world that my generation was going to be left with. I saw documentaries about the kind of world we were going to be left with, about climate change, about all these different crises that were affecting our earth. I didn’t see how I couldn’t do something about it, because you know climate change is the issue that is going to define the kind of world that my generation is going to live in. And when you think about ecosystems collapsing all over the planet, children dying every single day… when you think about that that’s the kind of world you’re left with, the kind of world you’re inheriting, it is something that can’t really be overlooked, can’t really be ignored. And so I’ve been fighting to improve this world since I was really young and I’m still keeping up the fight.

How have people reacted to your messages and when you reach out to them?

So I think that when people see me, like a little kid coming up and talking about climate change and about his future and his connect to the earth, it is something that they don’t see every day. It is something that adults especially aren’t used to. And I think that because of that, it not only makes them want to listen to what you have to say but they also get inspired by what we’re doing. Because if kids go home and tells their parents about something that’s affecting their future they’re obviously going to listen. When a kid’s life is in danger, when you know that because of what’s happening around you, because of natural disasters, you’re going to want to do something about it.

I think there’s something that young people have that adults can’t convey through speaking – that we have, kind of like this charm, that adults will listen to us, to what we have to say and will do pretty much anything to protect us, because what adult isn’t going to want to protect their kids? We’re not only trying to get adults and kids involved but to inspire and educate other young people. I think that in today’s society a lot of kids are separated and have lost their connection to the earth and don’t really care, or they feel hopeless about the state of the planet, and they think they can’t really do anything about it. But when they see other young people out in their communities making a difference I think that inspires them you know, it gets them thinking if this one person can make such a huge difference then why can’t I? And that sparks something inside of them.

What are some of the things you tell other young people to get them to feel like they can actually make a difference in the world?

I’ve had the support of my community, my family, of my friends for my entire life. That’s what has kept me going and without their support I wouldn’t be doing anything that I am doing today. I think that a lot of kids, especially like inner-city kids, don’t have access to adults, teachers or mentors who are willing to support something like that, because they don’t understated it.

The Earth Guardians are trying to spread the message of young people making a difference all around the globe and we have groups in 5 different countries right now – Togo, India, Australia, Brazil [and the USA]. And it is growing – because young people want to be a part of something, whether it is a group or a club or a sport – and when we’re showing them that they can be a part of a movement, where they can use their passion and also make a difference in the world, kids get excited about that.

Past generations – leaders, politicians, adults – it was their job to protect this future and to clean up this mess – but they failed us. In my point of view, the politicians, the leaders, they’re never going to be able to come up with anything to really save the earth. And if there is ever going to be anything to save it, it is going to be young people uniting all around the planet, with other generations, cultures and religions, with everyone setting aside their differences, setting aside what we don’t like about each other and working together.

Read part 2 here

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