When other kids were experiencing the travails of first grade, 6-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez was concerned about threats to the world’s ecosystem. Martinez, now 14, is the youth director of the nonprofit environmental organization Earth Guardians and one of the youngest people to speak on a United Nations panel.
Martinez, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, credits his worldview to the Aztec teachings of his father and the environmental activism of his mother.
In October, in his keynote address to the 2014 National Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California, he told the assembled crowd, “In the light of a collapsing world, what better time to be born than now? Because this generation gets to rewrite history, gets to leave our mark on this earth.… We will be known as the generation, as the people on the planet, that brought forth a healthy, just, sustainable world for every generation to come. … We are the generation of change.”
In December, HBO will debut the music video “Be the Change,” by Martinez’ hip-hop group, Voice of Youth.
In These Times spoke to Martinez about how to stop climate change.
You gave your first speech at a climate change rally when you were 6. At age 12, you were among the youngest speakers at the Rio+20 United Nations Summit. How is it that you became an environmental activist?
Martinez: One factor was the indigenous teachings passed on to me by my father and ancestors: that all life is sacred and connected to each of us; that as people on earth we have a responsibility to be caretakers of the world. I also watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary, The 11th Hour, when I was 6. I was devastated. I saw that my world — the world that my and future generations will be left with — is being destroyed by our lifestyles. There’s such a lack of consciousness on our planet. We’re overusing our resources to an extent that every living system on earth is dying.