Youth Activists Need to Be Heard
By Victoria Africano
What keeps a youth activist awake at night? How about the realization that our world can be an unjust place?
Take seabirds for example. Have you seen pictures of their stomachs full of plastic trash they mistook for food?
What about turtle’s whose shells grow deformed because they get the plastic rings from a six-pack wrapped around them?
Or perhaps the news that yet another community is being dislodged so that money-hungry corporations can expand their wealth in the name of creating jobs?
But what is wealth worth if we don’t care about basic human necessities like clean food and water, a stable home life, and the promise of a bright future?
It hurts so much, so deep, when you see people going about their normal lives, oblivious to all the human-caused pain and suffering in the world.
Not only that, but then you see these same people mindlessly add to the heaps of toxicity already present on our planet.
Alone and Isolated
In moments like these, it’s hard not to believe you are alone in the struggle for our planet – that nobody else sees or feels what you do.
You want to scream! It’s so disheartening and confusing to feel like you’re the only person on earth aware of these pains.
Or maybe other people do acknowledge them, but they shrug it off and accept it as a reality we just have to live with. But you know it doesn’t have to be this way.
The world is a beautiful place, too. If only we could connect with each other in the shift to make things like social justice and environmental activism the norm.
The good news is none of us are alone in making this world a better place. And, thanks to technology, it’s become even easier to connect with other like-minded youth activists.
What Exactly Is a Youth Activist?
When you hear the word “activist” you might picture protestors marching with signs. They might be calling out big-wigs for hurting other people, animals, and the environment in the name of personal gain. Maybe you picture Lisa Simspon vs. Mr. Burns.
Maybe you think activists are disruptive and make you feel uncomfortable. Or maybe you feel something stirring inside of you – inspiration, admiration, and a gleam of hope.
A youth activist is a change-maker. A person who works – acts – to create solutions that can help solve the root cause of an unjust problem. You don’t have to be in the limelight making speeches on TV or going on hunger strikes to be a youth activist, either.
If you’re able to tap into your compassion and put yourself in other people’s shoes (or animals’ feet, fins or flippers), then you can be a youth activist, too.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
There are so many different kinds of youth activists. Different people have different passions and can support change for the greater good, like for example:
- Environmental activists work to protect natural resources, species, fight climate change, clean microplastics out of the ocean and so on.
- Internet activists use social networks to share important information that could be censored. They also protect digital rights.
- Consumer activists boycott products that are manufactured unethically. They might live minimalist lifestyles to curb consumerism and materialism.
- Judicial activists make sure government officials are doing what they should be doing. They include watchdogs and whistleblowers.
- Digital activists use the internet (social media, emailing, etc.) as their platform to help bring about changes.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or how old you are. The commonalities that activists share are considering others and living by their principles. You can even be an activist by supporting activists! And the most important population we need to be supporting today are youth activists.
Why Must We Support Youth Activists?
Youth activists are dialed into our future. They embody the planet and give a voice to the balance of things, the laws of nature, and what’s to come. It may sound cliché but it is absolutely true that the youth will inherit the earth. That said, it’s only fair that we help them come into the kind of world they want to live in.
One day it’ll be their turn to pass the torch to younger generations, and they will then guide and protect them with the same mission.
We have to model compassion and empathy, and supporting youth activists is the easiest way of going about doing that. Aside from guiding them, we have a duty to protect them. We need to help them secure a platform to be seen, heard, and respected. That way they can be safeguarded from selfish people who value wealth and power over sustainability and well-being.
Unsupported Environmental Activists Are Being Killed
Speaking up against social and environmental injustices can be daunting. Especially if you feel like you’re causing waves alone and unprotected. Depending on how lax the protection of individual rights is where you live, it can mean jail time. It could even cost you your life.
According to Global Witness, more than 212 environmental activists were murdered across the globe in 2019 alone.
In March of this year, activist Melvin Dasigao and eight others were murdered in the Philippines for fighting for what they believed in.
“I would be lying if I said I was a completely brave and fearless activist all the time. I’m willing to take this risk because it’s the planet that we’re living on that we are fighting for. Worse things could happen”
-Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Dasigao’s friend and fellow activist
If Tan’s and Dasigao’s platform had been more known, taken seriously, and supported by more people, these murders could have been prevented.
In many parts of the planet, environmental activists are targeted with violent crimes because of their lack of a support network. Their cause or platform when standing up for their communities goes mostly unnoticed by the world. Many of their lives are ended before the world catches wind of who they were and what they were trying to protect.
Get Connected and Support Each Other
It’s true that the popularity of technology has seen the rise of worldwide psychic numbing. But what if, instead of protecting ourselves by turning a blind eye to dispiriting news, we used technology to become a part of the solution?
If you’re bugged by unfairness then you can be an activist. Heck, if you notice unfairness but think there’s nothing to be done about it, you can be an activist. Start by checking out some online communities where you can connect with people who also want to know how to help.
If you’re a parent, a teacher, or a mentor whose hope for kids is that they’ll be compassionate and loving people, introduce them to youth activism. Support their involvement and their development by using toolkits or guides with them. Ocean Blue Project’s Blue Schools curriculum has been designed to empower kids to make a difference in their communities. It has also been designed as a toolkit to help parents, teachers, and mentors have the support they need in teaching environmentally-centered values to young environmentalists. Blue Schools collaborates with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – EPA, and National Oceanic Atmospheric Association – NOAA.
Why must we support youth activists? Because as sentient beings, it is our duty to take care of those who take care of others. Activists take care of our mothership; the least we can do is take care of them!
Author Bio: Victoria is a naturalist, world explorer, minimalist, and a roots environmentalist. She’s learned from worldwide cultures, animals, and Mother Nature herself that living sustainably is crucial for everybody’s and everything’s well-being. Her dream is for compassion and empathy to be a basic thing that kids learn right along with how to walk and talk.