What does it take to make a difference? Is it passion? Bravery? Determination? A willingness to stay standing when others won’t? In any case, it’s obvious that not all heroes wear capes. In this article, we want to introduce you to some amazing young people from across the globe. These are heroes who have shown that age is just a number. They have proven that one individual can inspire a thousand others. These are some real inspirational individuals who make it feel like we have reached a turning point – that our future is in good hands. Don’t underestimate what future generations may be capable of achieving. Get ready to learn about some of our future leaders.
Greta Thunberg (The Guardian)
Greta Thunberg – Climate activist
Maybe you remember schoolchildren across Australia walking out of class to make the Australian Government take action on climate change. These kids were said to be inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who after her school strike outside the Swedish Parliament building has become a prominent environmental figure. Greta says in her TedX talk that her concern for climate change started at the age of eight when she was told about climate change by her teacher. Her research on the topic went on for six years. Today, she just doesn’t ‘talk the talk’ but she also lives as she learns: Greta stopped eating meat at the age of 12 and she has since 2015 stopped flying on airplanes and is instead riding her electrical bike around in Stockholm. In 2018, she was nominated as one of the finalists of the Children’s Climate Prize, but she asked the committee to remove her nomination. This was because all finalists had to be flown to the ceremony. Her strike has gained massive attention across the globe, and although she claims that she doesn’t care about being popular, she has got a lot of supporters across the globe, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo Di Caprio. She claims although most people are very supportive, she has been told by politicians that she should go back to school instead of sitting outside the parliament building. However, this hasn’t got her to back down, it has rather reinforced her fighting spirit. Greta attended last year’s COP24 United Nations Climate Change Summit in Poland, where she encouraged global leaders to “change the system,” and this month she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, where her goal was to provide a different perspective on climate change and climate injustice. She admits that provoking leaders might help to get their attention. Her attitude and determination have seen her be named one of Time magazine’s most influential teenagers of 2018.
Molly Steer (ABC News)
Moly Steer – Eliminating plastic straws
In Australia, nine-year-old Molly Steer is an excellent example of what one person can achieve. Statistics show that Australians used 10 million straws a day in 2018 and research states that corals which are in contact with plastic have a substantially higher risk of getting sick or dying. Molly’s initiative, the ‘Straw No More’ campaign, encourages people to stop using single-use plastic straws and has received international recognition. The campaign doesn’t just want people to stop using plastic straws, but also educate people on the impacts of plastic pollution. As of today, this campaign has got 90 schools across Australia and overseas get rid of plastic straws. Molly also proposed a challenge to the Mayor of Cairns on Cairns to become the first straw-free council in Australia. The result? The Mayor accepted the challenge: all straws and single-use plastics will be removed from council operations and businesses in the area have been encouraged to do the same. Molly has even recently shared her campaign with the Australian Prime Minister and received the Young Woman of Cairns Award for her efforts in 2018.
Angelina Arora (National Geographic)
Angelina Arora – Scientist
Also in Australia, 15-year old Angelina Arora (winner of the chemistry prize at the 2016 NSW Young Scientist Awards) has approached the excessive use of plastic differently. Using prawn shells, she has managed to find a way to extract chitin from the shells. Chitin it is a natural protein extracted from prawn shells, and it is the same protein that spiders use to make their webs. Amelia describes the material as strong, flexible and to have all the features one wants in plastic. Although chitin degrades slowly, it degrades completely and is proven to be harmless to mother nature. Angelina has got two objectives with her ‘chitin plastic’ project. One is to provide an alternative to plastic bags, and another is to change the general perception of science as a subject for boys and inspire other girls to pursue a career in science.
Amelia Telford (NAIDOC)
Amelia Telford – the voice of Indigenous youth
Amelia Telford has become the voice of Indigenous Australian youth. Northern Rivers is known for its beautiful natural environment and strong Indigenous culture. From growing up here, she learned to appreciate the natural environment from a young age. Amelia was involved in environmental groups at school, and while in high school, joined the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). Her eagerness to take action on climate change and her ability to speak up against injustice was highly appreciated within the organisation. Amelia has had a fundamental role in creating a movement of youth against social and environmental issues here in Australia. In 2014, an offspring of AYCC was established, called SEED. This is Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network. SEED was established with the vision of building a more sustainable future with strong cultures and local community involvement. Amelia describes climate change as being ‘an umbrella issue’, and suggests that it connects several ongoing cultural and environmental problems, which will amplify until something is done about it. Although that climate change presents a great threat to all of us, SEED has chosen to view climate change as an opportunity to create a more sustainable world. The cooperation between AYCC and SEED is considered quite unique in that it has created a way for Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people to work together towards a mutual goal.
José Adolfo (Odditycentral)
José Adolfo – Founder of the eco bank
Thirteen-year-old Jose has, despite his age, already attracted a lot of attention for his initiative of establishing a recycling bank. At the age of seven, he developed and implemented his initiative, which earned him the Children’s Climate Prize in 2018. With his initiative, Jose does not just aspire to bring about environmental awareness. Jose also hopes to bring about a cultural change by providing financial education. Children and teenagers are welcome to his bank, where they must bring at least 5kg of paper or plastic waste as first-time customers and can start an account. At assigned collection points, waste is converted to currency, as Jose sells all waste to recycling companies. Once the waste is sold, customers receive money on their account. This initiative is much appreciated in Peru, which has a long history of difficulties in waste management. As of today, Jose has established ten centres across Peru.
There is a lot we can learn from these seven young legends. Their determination to bring positive change, courage and innovative mindsets are traits that should be encourage among all of our youth. Do you agree? And do you know anyone else we should add to our list of next-gen changemakers? Let us know in the comments below!
P.S. Molly (Straw No More) also done a TEDx talk! You can check it out here.
[Cover image: School Strike 4 Climate Action]