When other kids were experiencing the travails of first grade, 6-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez was concerned about threats to the World’s ecosystem. Martínez, now 14, is the youth director of the environmental organization Earth Guardians and one of the youngest people to speak on a United Nations panel.
Martínez, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, credits his worldview to the Aztec teachings of his father and the environmental activism of his mother.
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?
Xiuhtezcatl Martínez [XM]: 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. […]
My work as a young Indigenous Environmental Activist has been so connected with my ceremonies and my culture. I have spent my life going to ceremonies since I was born. My favorite ceremonies that I have participated in with my dad are the sacred runs. We carry the sacred staffs and pray while we are sometimes running hundreds of miles. I have been running since I was a very small child. I have run from the border of [the part of the Planet we call]Mexico all the way to the Black Hills in South Dakota in a sacred run from the four directions of [the part of the Planet we call]the US praying for the healing of the people and of our nation. I have run from the Border of [the part of the Planet we call]Mexico through Navajo land and all the way to Hopi Land and have had the honor of offering our ceremonies and our Aztec dance in their sacred places. […]
I also watched the 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.
I couldn’t not do something. The calling to create, to build and to inspire a revolution was so great that I couldn’t sit still. Through that empowerment, I found my voice — my inspiration — and took action.
According to former NASA scientist James Hansen, the level of atmospheric CO2 needs to decrease to 350 parts per million (ppm) or less to avoid a global catastrophe. What are some ways people can help?
[XM]: It’s important to not only focus on the problems, but to focus on solutions. Sustainability is not a solar panel — it’s a lifestyle. Before we go out there to change the world, we’ve got to start with ourselves. What can we improve on? What can we do better? Turn off the lights when you’re not using them. While you’re brushing your teeth, turn the water off. Bike and walk to school as much as you can. Use public transit. Recycle. Compost. We’ve got to consider the way we’re using products and the companies we’re buying from.
It starts with simple day-to-day actions. Then, maybe, you can get a little bigger. Get involved in your community: start a youth group, get involved with an environmental or animal rights group — whatever you’re passionate about. Continue reading