5 youth climate activists you need to know

Before Climate Week 2019, familiarize yourself with these faces.

But first, young climate activists from around the world are coming together to challenge adults during the Global Climate Strike. Here are five leaders you should know:

Greta Thunberg

One of the most-recognizable youth climate activists is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg. In August of last year, the Swedish activist protested in front of Swedish Parliament, skipping school for a month to call for action on the climate crisis. She chronicled her efforts on social media and made headlines across the world, becoming the face of the youth climate activism movement.

Since then, Thunberg’s personal project has become a weekly ritual called #FridaysForFuture. Every week, students all over the world can join her in spending part of their Fridays out of school, protesting climate change.

And students aren’t the only ones to have caught on.

This week, Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize, scored a meeting with former President Barack Obama and testified in front of Congress about the science that shows the danger of climate change.

Her efforts have inspired the global climate strike, an event that will have 4,638 events in 139 countries, according to Thunberg.

Benji Backer

Benji Backer breaks the mold of youth climate activist -- he’s a conservative. Backer would like to change climate activism from not being associated with the GOP. To him, climate change is a bipartisan issue.

In his testimony submitted to Congress, he said, "The health of the environment affects all of us, regardless of where we live, our background or political affiliation."

"It will take all of us to find solutions to climate change and protect our planet for generations to come," he said.

But as president of the American Conservative Coalition, he doesn’t see legislation proposed by Democrats, such as the Green New Deal, as the solution. To him, this policy "inhibits innovation" and is "not [the] most effective way to reduce emissions on a global scale."

Varshini Prakash

Varshini found her passion for environmental activism in college, but she took her advocacy to a new level when she helped organize a sit-in of 150 youth environment activists outside of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed up, and it made national headlines.

But that’s not the only accomplishment Prakash has under her belt. She co-founded Sunrise, an environmental movement that is currently advocating for the Green New Deal.

And she isn’t afraid to call out politicians. Prakash uses her Twitter account to call out Democrats like Sen. Kamala Harris and former Gov. John Hickenlooper for not doing what she considers enough for environmental causes.

Xiuhtexcatl Martinez

Xiuhtexcatl Martinez is a 19-year-old musician and environmental activist who just launched NOW, a subscription service that allows people to donate monthly to planting trees. The app is still in development, and hopes to incorporate musicians and athletes.

Martinez is also a plaintiff in Juliana v. Unites States, a lawsuit filed by 21 young Americans who claim the federal government hasn’t protected Americans from climate change.

Currently, the lawsuit awaits the ruling of the Ninth Circuit court.

This week, Martinez spoke at a press event in front of the Supreme Court and appeared on the Daily Show, bringing awareness for next week’s activities that will raise awareness of the climate crisis.

Isra Hirsi

This 16-year-old has already been in VICE, Essence and the CUT -- but not because her mother is Rep. Ilhan Omar. It’s because she helped co-found the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, the U.S. branch of Thunberg’s movement.

In a blog post, she acknowledged her rare position.

"My reality is a little different from other[s] … because I’m involved in organizing and advocacy work where I’m creating my own platform, while also having a mom who has a massive platform."

Hirsi is as equally passionate about the environment as she is about diversity awareness.

On the biography of her website for Youth Climate Strike, she wrote, "As a black Muslim woman, it is important to me to have intersectionality be brought into this fight."