Over the last year, our own Contributing Writer Tia Shah, has been writing an amazing column about trailblazing girls throughout history. This new Incredible Girls column is in that vein, only this column is about contemporary girls under the age of 25 who are doing awe-inspiring and significant things in the world. Every Friday in 2019, we are going to post a column detailing the life of an Incredible Girl and why you should know about her. Read on for a glimpse into the life of climate change activist, Alexandria Villaseñor.
This column might turn into a love letter to badass climate change activists for the next couple of columns — and I regret nothing because they are all so incredibly awesome and a fitting part of this Incredible Girls column. Let’s dive in.
Tomorrow, 13-year-old student Alexandria Villaseñor will go on strike on behalf of all of us, in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Alexandria has been protesting for action on climate change in front of the U.N. for the past three months, skipping school every Friday to be able to do so.
While school strikes for action on climate change have been sweeping Europe for months, they haven’t really hit the U.S. — until now, that is. This past Friday, March 15, thousands of students poured out of their classrooms all over the country, and all over the world, in an effort to force the adults in their lives and in government — the people in positions of power — to do something drastic and extremely necessary about climate change.
Alexandria and her fellow climate activists, Haven Coleman and Isra Hirsi, (more to come in separate IG columns) have founded Youth Climate Strike, to ramp up American involvement in future climate change protests and to amplify the voices of young people.
Alexandria was partly inspired by another badass girl, Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who rose to prominence by addressing world leaders at a U.N. climate change summit in December. Thunberg told the leaders that emissions have been rising for the past few decades, and (rightly) told them off for it: “So I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future,” she said. “I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not. Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.”
Alexandria told Teen Vogue that her generation has the most at stake, and they need to spur world leaders to action however they can.
“Since climate change will be affecting my generation the most with the trajectory we’re on, it’s important to try and get action, especially from our world leaders and government officials. The point with school striking is [that] it’s civil disobedience, and it’s another way to put pressure on the world leaders.”
Alexandria also experienced the impact of climate change for herself, when she was visiting family in California when the Camp Fire — the deadliest fire in California history — was raging. Even though her family was nearly 100 miles away from Paradise, the town that the the fire was ravaging, the smoke was too much for her to handle, due to her asthma. The air quality was so bad that she ended up flying back to New York early because she wasn’t able to go outside.
After she got back to New York, she started researching climate change, why California is having an increase in deadly wildfires, and came across one of Greta’s climate speeches.
Alexandria began her solitary strike at the U.N. on December 14, 2018. School strikes have become routine, and the sense of urgency has only grown. The Fridays for Future movement has swept Europe, and is making its way to the United States led by student activists, and I think that is amazing.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Alexandria said something profound and striking, in my opinion. She said of her strike, and finally being joined by children her age last week: “For weeks, I was alone and ignored, receiving barely a nod or a glance from people passing by me. But they [world leaders] are still not listening. Instead, our world leaders are the ones acting like children. They are the ones having tantrums, arguing with each other and refusing to take responsibility for their actions, while the planet burns.”
Watch this space for more coverage of the incredible climate change activists who are galvanizing support to, quite literally, change the world. We’ll have more coverage in the Incredible Girls column and on Girl Museum as this movement continues.
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