You’re Burning Our Future: The Young People Leading the Climate Movement

September 18, 2019

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With the global youth climate strike on the horizon, we have been reflecting on the role that young people have played in leading the climate movement. In a world riddled with climate change skepticism and political apathy, young people have successfully cut through the noise and drawn attention to the existential threat that is: The Climate Crisis.

For young students across the world, the 20th of September won’t be just like any other school day. Rather than heading to their classrooms, young people across the globe will be taking to the streets to teach all of us a lesson. A simple one: climate change is ruining our planet, we are running out of time to save it, and adults need to take action immediately to protect our future.

Students have proven to be a fundamental and driving force in shifting opinions and policies on climate, wars, gun control and pretty much any major movement of the past 80 years. And through our partnerships, Purpose is proud to support this growing, youth-led, climate movement. Here are some spotlights on young people who have inspired us in our Purpose Climate Lab campaigns over the years.

Youth v Gov

Since 2015, the American youth have been suing the U.S. government for violating their constitutional rights to “life, liberty, personal safety, and property” through creating the climate crisis that they will inherit. YOUTH v GOV (officially known as Juliana vs. US) is the legal campaign demanding the government be accountable for the right to a future. Purpose has bolstered this inspiring movement with research, creative, and digital content to further promote their messages and make ensure more Americans, young and old, hear these incredible activists.

Little Miss Flint, Mari Copley 

Mari Copley is a climate activist from Flint, Michigan. Since the age of 8, she has been raising awareness about the environment, particularly the Flint Water Crisis. In 2017, Purpose Climate Lab partnered with her to promote the People’s Climate March with an original promo titled Little Miss Rambo” shot on location at her home in Flint.

Mari continues to be an active voice in Gen Z on climate change and the Flint Water Crisis. 

Kid Warrior, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an influential climate activist. He argues that, “the biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness, not saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving. We do.” Through his activism, he has encouraged youth around the world to participate in the fight against global warming. In 2015, ahead of the Paris Climate Summit, Purpose created a video that highlighted Xiuhtezcatl Martinez’s journey and work as part of the #climatechangeisreal campaign on Earth Day.

It all comes together

This week our paths crossed again. For years, Purpose has been honored with the opportunity to support the Guardians of the Forests campaign and the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, an alliance on indigenous peoples and local communities from Brazil, the Amazon basin, Mesoamerica, and Indonesia.

As part of this collaboration, Purpose engaged with a number of organizations that support the youth movement to bring their voices to Washington DC. These organisations include 350.org, Our Children’s Trust, This is Zero Hour, Earth Guardians, One Million of Us, and National Children’s Campaign. We are humbled to be able to play a role in connecting indigenous youth from Latin America and Indonesia to those in the United States and Europe, such as Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Vic Barrett, Greta Thumberg, Artemisa Xakriaba, and many others.

Artemisa is a 19 year old indigenous leader from Brazil. She spoke during a press conference with 6 US Senators and various youth activists in the shadows of the US Capitol building in Washington DC. Artemisa remarked, “Indigenous peoples’ organizations and local communities already act as a movement. Now we are getting stronger because we are working with young people from all over the world. That’s why I’m here with Greta, the other activists, and the Guardians of the Forest.”

An inspiring example of this union was the presence of the Guardians of the Forest, standing with the youth plaintiffs of Juliana V the US. They stood together in front of the steps of the Supreme Court during the press conference. Militza Flaco, a 23 year old Guardian of the Forest from Panama, was invited to speak. She said, “we, the indigenous youth, are standing here in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from the North. This Friday, we’ll march the streets of New York together, hand in hand. And in the years ahead we’ll continue fighting for the future that we deserve.”

Striking For Change, Together

On the 20th of September, in New York City, the youth of the Guardians of the Forest will lead the march along with young activists from across the United States as well as Greta. Older indigenous leaders will follow suit, validating their demand for urgent climate action and their support for the leadership of youth.

Purpose employees from across the globe are choosing to join our partners, young people leading the climate movement, and the public by striking for immediate climate action. As put by some of the activists, September 20th will mark the day when people will decide on which side of the climate crisis they want to be – part of the problem, or part of the solution. At Purpose, we have no doubts.


Tate Soller Junior Campaigner
Joao Talocchi Head of Campaigns