When Greta Thunberg took the podium at the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in 2019 at just 16 years old and declared, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” it became clear that the planet’s most necessary allies are its youngest residents. And that until that moment (and for a while after it) some of the strongest voices in the fight for equitable, sustainable environmental change had been silenced.
In the two years since, the climate crisis has gone from bad to worse, and awareness of it has continued to grow, especially among younger generations who are motivated and devoted to clean beauty, sustainable fashion, and the cause of a greener future. And we have a new generation of activists to thank for the continued drumbeat of do more, do better — we are out of time.
To celebrate Earth Day 2021, we are highlighting three eco-warriors from around the world who were featured in our Badass 50 list earlier this year. They are young, they are present, and they epitomize our Badass Women mantra of showing up, speaking up and getting things done.
Vanessa Nakate, 24, Uganda
“We need to address that climate change is not happening in the future, it is happening now,” says the 24-year-old Uganda native. Nakate’s spark for activism came in 2018, after becoming concerned with how her home country was being affected by climate change, wrought with landslides, floods, and droughts. She has since become a global voice for environmentalism. In her most badass moment, she called out the Associated Press after they cropped her out of a photo where she was the only Black activist pictured alongside Greta Thunberg and others. Nakate’s goal is to “see a world that is clean, livable, healthy, equitable, and sustainable for all of us.” To that end, she will publish a “memoir and manifesto” later this year called A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis, which is available for preorder now.
Find her on Instagram at: vanessanakate1
Isra Hirsi, 18, the United States
As the 18-year-old daughter of US Representative and member of “The Squad” Ilhan Omar, activism is in Hirsi’s blood. She co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike in 2019 and focuses on highlighting the racism inherent in climate change discussions, where she pushes that “the lack of intersectionality in climate change discourse is killing marginalized communities.” All of this while still attending public school and becoming a burgeoning TikTok star. Moving forward, Hirsi is, “ambitious for revolution, which I would love to see in my lifetime.”
Find her on TikTok at: IsraHirsi
Maatalii Okalik, Canada
“A badass woman works for the collective and the many generations to come,” says the Inuit youth activist. Okalik was featured in National Geographic’s The Last Ice documentary and serves as the President of Canada’s National Inuit Youth Council. Her goal is to bring the Inuit community’s point of view to the table during climate discussions because, “we are the original conservationists and we urgently need the rest of the global community to join us in protecting the future of our world.” Okalik hopes her visibility and activism will push people to be more thoughtful and accepting of Inuit rights and culture as a whole. “One thing I didn’t hear growing up as an Inuk kid in a city was that I belonged. I want young people to know that they belong wherever they are.”
Find her on Twitter at: Maatalii
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