Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 16 year old indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of the global youth-led environmental movement. 

At the early age of six Xiuhtezcatl began speaking at conferences around the world – from the Rio+20 United Nations Summit in Rio de Janeiro to the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York.

He is currently a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Obama administration for their failure to protect the atmosphere. He is also actively working to get pesticides out of parks, coals ash contained, and moratoriums on fracking. Xiuhtezcatl recently launched a Care2 petition and video letter demanding action on climate change – it garnered over 110,000 supporters. We sat down with Xiuhtezcatl and asked him who inspired him and his plans for the future of the movement.

Xiuhtezcatl, who is your ultimate disruptor? Tim DeChristopher.

What do you think made him so disruptive? DeChristopher is an incredible man. In December 2008 he walked into a Bureau of Land Management auction in Utah where they were auctioning off 116 parcels of publicly-owned land for gas and oil drilling rights. He didn’t know what he was going to do, but knew this illegal act had to be stopped. Tim was designated "Bidder 70" and he bid for 14 parcels of land worth almost $2 million (that he had no money to pay for). He went to prison fighting for the cause.  

How would things be different if DeChristopher hadn’t taken action? Thanks to his act of civil disobedience, the US Department of the Interior ended up not selling this land to the fossil fuel companies who were going to develop and destroy it. But even bigger than that was the movement DeChristopher inspired for which he went to prison for 21 months – his activism motivated people all over the country and all over the world to take bolder, greater actions.

What have you learned from his disruptive behavior? Inspired by DeChristopher's unusual and creative way to be disruptive, Earth Guardians, my non-profit organisation, has been plotting a global school walk-out. This huge disruption would involve millions of young people all over the world standing up and walking out of their schools, going into their communities to talk to them about climate change, and then walking back into school. Just as DeChristopher disrupted the auction system and created change, so too will all of these young people – I want them to know they have the power to create change, by walking out of the systems that are holding us back. 

Virgin Unite,Care2, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

How are you following in his footsteps? Earth Guardians is a platform that any action can use as long as it’s youth-based and non-violent. We need a huge commitment to climate action, because if we’re looking at the problems that are going to be left for future generations, it’s clear that climate change is one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time. 

How has DeChristopher inspired you to be a leader in climate activism? DeChristopher is a true hero and he continues to be a huge role model for me.  One thing we’re trying to show the world is that being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being on the front lines all the time. Each and every person has different traits of leadership. The whole point of this movement is to find and inspire more leaders. I don’t want to be the only one.

What would you like to say to people who don’t care about climate change? I think turning your back on climate change is turning your back on every person who has already suffered the millions of climate refugees who’ve already lost their homes or families as the result of a climate disaster.

Most adults in this country have young people that they love and care about. So I point out that climate change is a threat to the lives of the next generation. Our beautiful world isn't going to be here anymore unless action is taken on climate change. People have got to wake up to that now; Otherwise is going to be too late by the time they understand the importance of taking action, far too late.

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