9 Inspiring Bioneers Youth Leaders Share Their Knowledge

Youth are inheriting a world smoldering at its edges. For many young people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is the end of the system that exploits the planet at the expense of future generations. With their futures on the line, youth are inspiring hope, kindling a generation of changemakers and leaders. 

Bioneers has long been committed to regularly featuring a variety of young leaders who are sowing a bright and brilliant future by centering their communities and realizing the true power of youth organizing and action. In this article, we highlight just a few of the incredible next generation of movement activists who are taking on the mantle of leadership.

1. Isha Clarke on Environmental Racism and Centering the Most Vulnerable in the Movement for Climate Justice

“Environmental racism is coal terminals through West Oakland, is oil refineries through Richmond, and oil pipelines through Indigenous lands. I thought to myself: If this is true if this is the root of environmental injustice, why doesn’t the environmental justice movement include anyone from these communities? And if they do, why are they not the leaders? And on top of all of this, why aren’t these movements talking about environmental racism and its importance?” – Isha Clarke, A New Era of the Climate Justice Movement

2. Naelyn Pike on the Recognizing Diversity as a Step Toward Protecting the Earth

“I cannot let this world be gone, and I cannot be a bystander because I’m afraid or I don’t want to talk about the truth or I don’t understand. In order to create change and make change for the people, we must unify. True unity is accepting one another’s diversity, because each and every one of you in this room is beautiful. We all have a story. I have my own story. My mom has her story. But as long as we understand each other’s stories and we accept that beautiful diversity in all people because we are human beings in this world, the one thing we can understand is that we all have one issue on which we can relate. And that’s that we need to protect this Earth.” Naelyn Pike, Youth Leadership For a More Just Future

3. Jamie Margolin on Finding Balance as a Youth Climate Activist

“How do we, as a movement, fight against a well-funded machine, without taking ourselves down in the process? We need people in this movement for the long run. We have more numbers than them. We have to find a way where we can maintain our humanity and who we are outside of fighting against the end of the world” – Jamie Margolin, Burnout and Balance: Finding an Identity Outside Of Your Activism

4. Alexia Leclercq on Intersectional Movements

“The climate crisis is predominantly a result of our global economic system. If we don’t address how people of color are disproportionately impacted by a ravaged environment and we aren’t willing to face the fact that a small group of giant corporations are directly responsible for much of the planet’s pollution and habitat degradation and climate destabilization and that our governments continue to support those corporations (and in some cases will literally go to war, such as in Iraq, where they killed perhaps two million people in order to maintain those corporations’ control of oil), we won’t get anywhere.” – Alexia Leclercq, Building An Intersectional Climate Justice Movement

5. Alexandria Gordon on the Power of Youth Climate Organizing

“My generation is the largest and most diverse in the history of the United States. We are going to be the ones most impacted by the climate crisis, and we are inheriting a world with a lot of huge problems all around us. It can be daunting to even think about: how can we even begin to tackle those immense challenges? I think that it’s going to take young people recognizing our power, getting the resources and the skills that we need to harness that power, and then ultimately organizing to create the change that we deem necessary, starting in our local communities.” -Alexandria Gordon, The Youth Movement Building Power for a Sustainable Future

6. Nalleli Cobo on Finding Her Passion For Climate Justice

“I started to experience body spasms so intense I had to be carried from place to place because I would freeze up. I got bad heart palpitations and had to use a heart monitor for several weeks. But it wasn’t just me or just my family—it was most of my community that was also suffering. We were living in a “sacrifice zone,” an area where people tend to be poor and don’t know much about their rights, and are too busy trying to survive day-to-day to resist. That’s where industries and governments choose to put their most polluting facilities: in the most vulnerable communities, but this time they chose the wrong community.” -Nalleli Cobo, Youth Activism on the Frontlines of Urban Oil Drilling

7. Mishka Banuri on the Intertwined Struggles and History of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. and the Middle East

“This colonial and imperialistic behavior of the United States is not new. Literature has shown that the military has adopted a metaphor of referring to places with resources ripe for intervention, like the Middle East as “Indian Country.” The behavior modeled is not new because it is how the U.S. exists in the first place, stealing land, resources, and the lives of Indigenous and black people. So while we continue to see privatization and extraction on indigenous land, we will also see privatization, militarization, extraction and thievery from ethnic minorities, Muslims, and the Global South.”- Mishka Banuri, A First Generation Immigrant’s Perspective on Youth Climate Justice

8. Jayden Lim on Dehumanization and Native Stereotypes

“While Native American symbols have been popularized in media and commercial markets, those symbols are appropriated and devalued of their meaning once they are stripped from their Native communities. The popularity of the symbol of the headdress is a symptom of a much larger problem, and the problem is dehumanizing and exploitation of Native Peoples and their ancestral lands. We need to move from symbolism to reality. In order to start this movement, we must acknowledge the past.” – Jayden Lim, Beyond the Headdress: Breaking Free from Native American Stereotypes and Misinformation

9. Edna Chavez on the Role of Youth in the Climate Movement

“We’ve been ignored far too long, and for the first time in many years, all eyes are on us. People need to understand that they need to listen to us. This is our moment as young people, as Black and Brown youth leaders, to use our voices, to be more inclusive in these conversations, to share our stories, to reclaim our power, and most importantly, to hold policymakers accountable and demand they invest in young people and organizations that are creating spaces for young people to lead.” – Edna Chavez, Edna Chavez Is the Voice of a New Generation of Changemakers

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