Autumn Peltier, one of many young voices against the climate crisis, is stirring up a storm. Indeed, we are witnessing a mass, youth-led movement against climate change. From the recent UN Youth Climate Summit to the Zero Hour movement, young people are uniting in a common cause. And they’re demanding our attention.
They’re fighting for environmental justice. For governments to take a stand against climate change. And most importantly, for their futures. At the front line of this battle is Autumn Peltier, an international advocate for clean water.
Who is Autumn Peltier?
Autumn Peltier is a 15-year-old, indigenous, clean water activist. She’s a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario. She lives on Lake Huron, one of North America’s Great Lakes — the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth.
It follows that growing up, Peltier always had access to clean water. But Peltier knows that others are not so lucky.
“We keep seeing and hearing that there’s First Nation communities that can’t drink their water, that it’s contaminated from pollution and pipelines breaking,” she told a reporter at CBC. “One day it really affected me and I actually cried about it.”
After this revelation, Peltier began to advocate for the universal right of clean drinking water — at just eight years old. She learned from her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, who also worked to protect Canada’s water. Mandamin walked the shores of the Great Lakes to advocate and raise awareness for water conservation.
Following those footsteps, Peltier has broken major ground for indigenous water rights. An official “water protector,” she fights for universal clean drinking water. Specifically, she advocates for safe waterways and drinking water for indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond.
“Water is one of the most sacred elements in our culture,” she said.
Peltier’s important strides
Even at such a young age, Peltier has already done a lot to raise awareness of water rights and ensure communities have access to safe drinking water. Notably, she met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016. She, in tears, insisted he do more to prevent Canadian communities from consuming unsafe water. The Prime Minister had endorsed several pipeline projects, endangering First Nation communities.
Because of these pipelines, over 100 indigenous communities received boil water advisories. These government issued advisories indicate that a community’s drinking water could be contaminated with pathogens and is not safe to drink without first boiling it.
Peltier has also brought her message to the international community.
In 2015, she attended the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden. And in 2017, she received a nomination for the Children’s International Peace Prize.
In 2018, Peltier traveled to the UN General Assembly in New York. There, she addressed the UN on water rights, as part of the commencement of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.
Peltier speaks at the United Nations
“Water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth,” she told the UN. “Our water should not be for sale. We all have a right to this water as we need it.”
Just last week, Peltier returned to the UN. This time, she spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum, which focuses on sustainability of land.
In her speech, she stressed the alarming number of indigenous communities lacking clean water, and how little has been done.
“All across these lands, we know somewhere where someone can’t drink the water,” she said.
“Why so many, and why have they gone without for so long?”
Ari Kelo is a Staff Writer and Editor at The Rising. Ari also currently studies Theatre, Political Science, and Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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How Can YOU Help In The Fight Against The Australia Fires?
Australia fires have burned an area twice the size of Maine in the past few months.
Authorities report that at least 25 people have died. Two thousand homes have been destroyed. Tens of thousands have been urged to leave their homes due to spreading flames and declining air quality.
What’s even more alarming are estimations for affected animals. Some 600,000 different species are contained in the area burning, and many are completely unique to Australia. Based on calculations from Professor Christopher Dickman of the University of Sydney, 1 billion animals have died.
And Australia still has another month of fire season left.
So how can we help?
How to Help Affected Families of the Australia Fires
There are two main groups that are hurting because of the fires: people and animals. Some ways to help out the displaced people due to Australia fires include:
1. The Australian Red Cross (for Communities)
Helping out with medical aid, food, and shelter, this organization has sent over 1,200 people to affected communities to help meet the increased need in their 70 evacuation and recovery centers.
Australian actor Dacre Montgomery, who starred in “Stranger Things”, set up a GoFundMe page to gather funds for the Australian Red Cross. Help reach the goal of raising $500,000 here.
2. Australia Wildlife Fund (to Increase Firefighting Efforts)
This organization was started by a $3 million donation from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance. It first aims to help the people affected by the fires by funding firefighting efforts and supporting the damaged communities. The Australia Wildlife Fund will also dedicate funds to wildlife, both in the most urgent times and after the fires to restore ecosystems. Donate here.
3. New South Wales Rural Fire Service (for Families of Firefighters Who Passed Away)
Battling the Australia fires is a dangerous job. Thousands of brave men and women are risking their lives to limit the damage of the fires. They don’t always come home; three have lost their lives so far in this wildfire season. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is accepting donations for the families of those firefighters here.
How to Help Impacted Animal Habitats
Wildlife affected by the fires need aid right now, but they will also need new habitats when the fire season is over. The organizations below have laid out plans to tackle one or both of these issues.
1. WIRES (for Wildlife Rescue)
New South Wales Wildlife, Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. is the country’s largest wildlife rescue organization. WIRES volunteers carried out over 3,300 rescues in December alone. Donate here.
2. Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital (for Injured Animals)
Run in part by Steve Irwin’s daughter, this zoo has started the Wildlife Warriors program, which is raising money for new enclosures to house the influx of flying foxes and koalas injured in the fire. Help build these new facilities by donating here.
3. World Wildlife Fund Australia (Planting Trees and Restoring Lost Habitats)
One of the organizations mainly focused on the repercussions of habitat loss, the WWF Australia has set a goal of planting 10,000 native trees in what were previously highly populated koala habitats.
Their action will begin at the conclusion of the fire season and are accepting donations here.
Companies That Have Provided Support During the Australia Fires
Another way to help Australia is to support companies who have helped the country fight the fires. Airbnb, for example, has offered temporary free housing to those in New South Wales and Melbourne, the places the fires’ effects have been the worst, who have been displaced.
Amazon contributed AU$1 million to aid fire relief efforts. Coca-Cola Amatil has given paid leave to workers volunteering with emergency services to fight the fires and provide relief, and 250,000 bottles of water to volunteers.
Additionally, several retail chains in Australia like Levi’s and The North Face pledged to donate 100% of profits from a day last week to the Australian Red Cross.
Beyond Donations: What Should Businesses and Government do About the Australia Fires
Donations now, or helping out however you can, is, of course, selfless and highly impactful. However, we also need to think about how these fires could look in the future if current environmental practices around the world continue.
While climate change may not have started the fires, the increased temperatures dry out plant material, essentially increasing kindling for the fires, making it easier for them to grow and spread.
In 2018, Australia’s national science agency and Bureau of Meteorology concluded that a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperatures has likely contributed to increased intensity in the Australia fires.
Hopefully, these fires can help spur some changes in environmental policy worldwide. So even if donating is not possible at this time, help out Australia by pressuring businesses and governments to put in place more environmentally friendly practices.
Meet Leah Namugerwa: The 15-Year-Old Leading Climate Activism In Uganda
Greatly inspired by Greta Thunberg’s activism, 15-year-old Leah Namugerwa has made strides in advocating for climate justice in Uganda. With increasing droughts and other adverse effects of climate change, the need for attention is vital. Both motivated and determined, Namugerwa puts her faith in the younger people of Uganda.
How Climate Change is Affecting Uganda
Namugerwa has been a witness to many of the negative effects that climate change has led to. From environmental degradation to the inability to grow crops, climate change is affecting Ugandan people in all aspects of life. Moreover, in a report released by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the problems are accumulating.
Droughts collectively affected 2.4 million people from 2004 to 2013. Moreover, between 2010 and 2011, droughts caused an estimated damage value of about $1.2 billion. That’s equivalent to roughly 7.5% of Uganda’s GDP in 2010.
In addition, climate change will lead to a 1.5-degree increase in Uganda’s average temperature by 2030. With the increasing temperature, Uganda is susceptible to environmental degradation, which has already begun. Furthermore, all these factors are causing the agricultural sector of Uganda to falter.
Leah Namugerwa has not been a silent witness to all of this; the teen hopes to incite change within Uganda.
Who is Leah Namugerwa?
Following the footsteps of Greta Thunberg, Namugerwa began protesting for climate action every Friday. Skipping school and facing a lot of opposition, Leah Namugerwa was adamant to get her message across. Soon, the teen was able to rally many other Ugandans for the cause. Her biggest goal, apart from enforcing current climate legislation, is to bring attention to climate change.
Being a major player in the protests in Uganda, many fear for Namugerwa’s safety. Replying, she says, “My safety? I think that will make more climate awareness, if they try to [arrest me]” she states. “If that happens, [the media] will have to come.”
Namugerwa’s family was especially reinforcing for her protests. In fact, Namugerwa’s uncle, Tim Mugerwa, is part of Green Campaign Africa. This organization supports Fridays for Future Uganda. Furthermore, Mugerwa plans to run for president in 2021 on a green platform.
Leah Namugerwa’s Faith is in the Young People of Uganda
The median age of Uganda is about 16 years old. Namugerwa admits that the education of her younger peers is essential in gaining support for climate action. By educating her peers, Namugerwa hopes to create a lasting impact on Uganda.
For now, Leah Namugerwa calls for everyone to actively get involved in the fight against ecological breakdown.
Meet Quannah Chasinghorse: The 17-Year-Old Leading Climate Activism in Alaska
“We shouldn’t have to tell people in charge that we want to survive. It should be our number-one right. We should not have to fight for this.” Those are the words of 17-year-old Quannah Chasinghorse, who stood in front of a sea of delegates at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) 2019 Convention in Fairbanks.
Heavily involved in advocating for rights for the indigenous people of Alaska, Quannah Chasinghorse is part of the Gwich’in and Lakota Sioux tribes. Her biggest goal? To put into focus the damaging effects of climate change on the indigenous populations of Alaska.
Alaska is Facing the Brunt of Climate Change
In a report released by the National Climate Assessment (NCA), Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country.
Furthermore, these disastrous effects are hitting the indigenous populations of Alaska extra hard, too. The quicker seasons and the warmer days present many risks for indigenous Alaskans.
These risks include threats to food supplies and higher costs for infrastructures. Furthermore, some indigenous villages have had to relocate due to coastal erosion from climate change.
Youth activism has undergone a surge in the past year due to these irreversible changes. In the spotlight, Chasing Horse and her 15-year-old partner Nanieezh Peter are determined to make a change.
Quannah Chasinghorse Speaks at the Alaska Native Convention
At the Alaska Native convention, Chasinghorse brought attention to the report released by the NCA. Thousands of Alaska natives at the convention heard the teen’s arguments.
Moreover, she provided for a generational lens by drawing to her own experiences with climate change. Chasinghorse explained how the youth are more keen on how climate change is changing everyday life.
Both Chasinghorse and Peter expressed deep sorrow for the generations that will come after them, presenting their own climate change resolution to the delegates.
Their resolution called for AFN voting members to recognize climate change as a state of emergency. It, unsurprisingly, faced a lot of opposition from those who had interests in oil and gas reserves along the North slope.
With concerns about the resolution tampering with the lucrative business opportunity, the vote for the resolution was not unanimous. But on December 21, delegates of the Alaska Federation of Natives passed the resolution.
Quannah Chasinghorse Hopes to Continue to Spread the Word
Both teens are adamant in standing up for their communities in these times of change. And rightfully so.
Something must be done to help the communities that face the brunt of climate change.
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