This Young American Is Shaking Up Climate Change Activism

Photo Credit: 10696440ag/Shutterstock

Now, you may feel that you are already aware of the notable climate change activists who are leading the charge today. However, oftentimes activists of color are noticeably left out of news coverage in the conversation about the environment. This does not mean that there are no Black, Indigenous, and people of color climate activists out there. There are many amazing activists from diverse backgrounds and communities who are working tirelessly to protect our planet.

A community that most definitely deserves to have a weighty voice in the climate change arena is that of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. For far too long into modern history, our country has continued to show a flagrant disrespect to the Indigenous population. Considering that the Indigenous peoples are the descendants of the original inhabitants of this land, it is only right that their voices be heard and respected in regard to its future. Environmental activist Xiye Bastida is making sure her voice — and the voice of her people — has its rightful place in the ongoing discussions surrounding the environment and climate change.


Bastida is a proud member of the Indigenous Mexican Otomi-Toltec nation. This 18-year-old activist was born in Atlacomulco, Mexico, before moving to New York City in 2015, when, following three years of drought, devastating floods ravaged her hometown. This event no doubt greatly influenced Bastida’s decision to get involved in environmentalism and climate change awareness.

The impressive young woman was awarded the Spirit of the U.N. award in 2018 after giving a speech at the ninth United Nations World Urban Forum. But Bastida is perhaps best known for organizing the New York City Fridays for Future

Calling me ‘the Greta Thunberg of the United States’ distorts my experiences, my struggles, inspiration — my story.

Fridays for Future formed as a result of the worldwide attention Greta Thunberg received after her August 2018 protest in front of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag), while brandishing the sign "Skolstrejk för klimatet" or "School strike for climate." Now, Fridays for Future has transformed into an international movement of students who take time off from the school day on Fridays — a strike, if you will — in order to engage in activities and protests that demand action from their governments to prevent climate change and protect the environment.

It was Bastida who organized and encouraged members of her high school to strike with her on March 15, 2019, in what would become New York City’s first notable climate strike. When she began to become known as “America’s Greta Thunberg,” Bastida had this to say in response: “Calling me ‘the Greta Thunberg of the United States’ distorts my experiences, my struggles, inspiration — my story.”

Bastida deserves to be known for her own voice and contributions, and she’s well on her way to becoming a household name in her own right. She is credited with bringing an Indigenous perspective to the climate change movement, often tying in Indigenous cosmology and knowledge to her environmentalism. “We don’t call water a resource; we call it a sacred element. The relationship we have with everything that Earth offers, it’s about reciprocity. That’s the only way we are going to learn how to shift our culture from an extraction culture to a balanced and harmonious culture with the land.”

Bastida believes it is imperative that Indigenous voices earn a prominent place in crucial discussions concerning climate change. “The first ones to get affected are Indigenous communities who are displaced because of infrastructure and disrespect of the land. It’s not just coming from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities being victims of pollution that the fossil fuel industry brings. It’s much deeper than that. Whose spaces are they choosing to contaminate and build infrastructure in the first place?”

The eloquent and intelligent teenager has already helped bring her voice and the voice of her people to climate change activism in a way few activists before her have managed to achieve. Whether she is collaborating with Teen Vogue on a documentary short or with 2040 film on a short video, she approaches each subject with a sensitivity and wisdom rare in someone so young. Bastida is an inspiration to all people, no matter the age or background, who seek to make a difference in this world.

You can keep up to date with Bastida’s journey by following her on Twitter @xiyebastida.

This post is part of a CircleAround series celebrating Climate Week NYC 2020, this year's edition of an annual climate-focused convening, co-hosted by the City of New York and the United Nations. To learn more about the 350 events that will be taking place this week in conjunction with #ClimateWeekNYC, visit here.


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