Schoolgirls living in the forest landscapes undergoing restoration in Kapuas Hulu, Kalimantan, Indonesia. Lucy McHugh, CIFOR

5 kids and youth groups working to save the planet

Happy World Children’s Day!

They are fun, they are crazy, they are resourceful. They make us cry, laugh and think. They are kids – the future of the Earth and the future of our species. And they will take over the world that we will leave them.

Today, on World Children’s Day, here are the stories of five astonishing young people who have already distinguished themselves, showing a strong commitment to creating a better future and teaching us that an open and optimistic mind has the power to bring about real change.

Autumn Peltier
She is only 13 years old but already has the world talking about her. Peltier, a water activist from Canada’s Wikwemikong First Nation, has a clear objective in her mind: clean and unpolluted water for everybody. She has been honored as a water protector by the Assembly of First Nations and delivered a touching speech during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, detailing why she fights for her vision of a world where water is not treated as an endless resource but rather considered to have the same fundamental rights and living nature as humans. If everyone acknowledges water’s “personhood,” she says, “we can protect our waters.”

Milo Cress
When he was only 9 years old, Cress wondered how many plastic straws US citizens had used. His undying curiosity led him to start the Be Straw Free project. His approach was simple: call straw manufacturers and ask them for estimates of how many plastic straws are used. Milo’s research provided the answer the world was waiting for, and the statistic used by many publications today of 500 million straws. Be Straw Free has now evolved into a full-fledged campaign to reduce plastic waste and single-use straws, taking action on their place in everyday life, such as pushing restaurants to ask customers whether they would like straws in their drinks. Sometimes, it’s just that simple!

Felix Finkbeiner
In 2007, Finkbeiner began his mission when he was in the fourth grade by planting a single crab apple tree in his schoolyard. But this was far from enough for 9-year-old Finkbeiner, leading him to found the Plant-for-the-Planet project that same year. By 2014, Finkbeiner and the youth movement he’d sparked reached the mark of planting 1 million trees. Now, 15.2 billion trees have been planted in 190 countries thanks to his project, and he won’t stop until they reach 1 trillion.

The climate kids
On 2 November 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a pioneering lawsuit on climate to go ahead, despite President Trump’s attempt to stop the case that, since 2015, has been fighting for climate safety to be recognized as a civil right. Who’s leading the charge? A group of 21 young people between the ages of 11 and 22 who want to ensure that the beauty of their hometowns and favorite landscapes – from Hawaii’s coral reefs to Alaska’s ski mountains – will be in-tact for their children to enjoy as well. While the federal government is arguing that climate change mitigation isn’t a constitutional right, the kids are winning hearts and minds around the country.

25 kids against deforestation
This April, Colombia’s highest court granted the Colombian Amazon rainforest legal rights as a ‘person’ and demanded the government create a plan to combat deforestation. To thank for this is a group of 25 children and youth, who led this climate case that’s the first of its kind not only in Colombia but also in Latin America as a whole. The group, which ages between 7 and 26, along with Colombian research and advocacy organization Dejusticia, sued the Colombian government for failing to protect Colombian forests and children’s rights to a healthy environment. They not only envisioned a possibility for change but decided they were going to be part of it.

Felix Finkbeiner will speak at GLF Bonn 2018, 1–2 December. Registration is available here.



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