April 22 marks Earth Day, and the 50th anniversary of the “world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and the planet”. Held in April each year, it provides an opportunity for people to focus entirely on global issues that affect us all, with this year’s edition shining the spotlight on climate change.
It’s inspiring to see so many young innovators and activists offering new perspectives and ideas on how we can practically and ideologically bring real change. Here, in celebration of Earth Day, we take a look at the shining lights of Gen Z blazing a trail through the issue of climate change.
Gen Z Climate Activist – Greta Thunberg
The 17-year old has been the face of environmental activism since the age of 15, when she quit school to protest the Swedish parliament and call for stronger action on climate change. Today, she is considered a leader for young environmentalists on the world stage, having spoken at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.
Her general position is that too little is being done to tackle climate change on a global scale, and her impassioned speeches have very quickly become viral through the use of graphic imagery and fervent calls’ to arms. She has received numerous awards for her activism, including a listing on TIME’s Person of the Year in 2019 and a total of five Nobel Peace Prize nominations. A collection of her speeches, No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, is available to purchase and has become a New York Times Bestseller.
Gen Z Climate Change Entrepreneur — Boyan Slat
Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat hit the headlines in 2012 at 16 when he gave a TEDx talk outlining his humble yet innovative ocean plastic clean up solution. The idea began as a simple school project after experiencing first-hand the suffocating amounts of plastics in our oceans during a diving trip. The inspiring TED talk went viral, and using his newfound fame as a springboard, he decided to dedicate his time to making the idea a reality.
In 2013, non-profit start-up The Ocean Cleanup was founded, with a mission to develop advanced technologies to rid the world’s ocean of plastic. As the CEO, Slat set up a crowdfunding campaign and raised $2.2 million, with another $31.5 million coming from donations since that time. In 2018, the first of Slat’s original designs was tested, with the successful collection of plastics being confirmed in the third test in 2019.
Gen Z Activist — Jamie Margolin
As co-founder and executive of Zero Hour, a climate action organization based out of Seattle, Jamie Margolin had already contributed to the Gen Z climate change movement by the time she was 15. The Zero Hour Organization is a non-profit international movement focusing on accelerating climate change action by engaging people from all backgrounds. Through the #thisisZeroHour, they hope to spread the message that there is no more time to waste.
In September 2019, Margolin and other youths sued Governor Jay Inslee and the State of Washington over greenhouse gas emissions in the state, stating that the government’s lack of action was denying younger generations a constitutional right to a livable world. She was also named as one of People Magazine’s 25 Women Changing the World in 2018 and is an active member of the Junior State of America.
Gen Z Climate Change Filmmaker — Dylan D’Haeze
Creator of the Kids Can Save the Planet series of documentaries, Dylan D’Haeze’s inquiring mind has led to many projects. The simple question of what happens to plastic when we throw it away gave no simple answer, and at the age of 13, he set out on the road to creating the first film in the series—Plastic is Forever. However, once complete, this only uncovered more questions, and hot on the heels of the first documentary came Tipping Point and Everything Connects, two films covering climate change and zero waste issues respectively.
Aimed directly at educating, informing, and empowering Gen Z climate change activists and other kids, Dylan’s passion for storytelling makes the films both compelling and easily accessible for people of any age. Currently, he is traveling the world to present his films in person in schools, colleges, city halls, and state capitals, with a mission to bring greater engagement across the US.
Gen Z Climate Innovator — Amber Yang
Our desire to explore the cosmos is creating plenty of waste in space too. In fact, when the Voyager 1 spacecraft left our solar system in 2013, it officially became the first man-made piece of intergalactic junk and is now joined by other space debris orbiting our planet.
One Gen Z climate innovator, however, has made great leaps forward in dealing with space junk by developing an artificial neural network that is currently besting NASA’s efforts. Amber Yang’s software is able to track space junk with 98% accuracy, and in 2017 she was named as one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list for science. Space exploration is considered the last great frontier for humanity, and perhaps, if we can start taking stock of cosmic waste now, it may have positive repercussions for the way we deal with our terrestrial waste in the future.
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