The other day, a girl in one of my classes explained to me that the overwhelming pessimism of today’s current events has shocked her into a state of complete apathy. “I don’t know anything about politics,” she told me, “so how can I change the way things are headed?”
Although I understand where my classmate was coming from, I had to politely disagree with her. Some of today’s greatest activists aren’t political pundits by any means. From fighting female genital mutilation to improving First Nation indigenous peoples’ quality of life, here are four young activists who are proving that huge, progressive leaps forward often start with small steps.
This Oregon teen made headlines when she sued the state of Oregon for its failure to reduce the same carbon emissions that are the driving force behind global climate change. But Miss Juliana isn’t just taking climate activism to the courtroom—she’s taking it to the streets. She’s just completed the Great March for Climate Action, which began on March 1st in Los Angeles and ended November 1st in Washington, D.C.
If you’re shocked by Kelsey’s dedication to protecting the environment from the bottom up, don’t be. Climate activism runs in her family—in the ‘90s, her parents participated in anti-logging protests.
For those of you who love poetry, performance art, and gritty radicalism, look no further than DARKMATTER, a South Asian activist duo composed of Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon. DARKMATTER’s spoken word pieces convey their brutally honest opinions about about gender, racial, and economic inequalities. But DARKMATTER’s work isn’t just meant to be admired from afar—it’s meant to bring about actual change through community action and participation. Janani and Alok’s university workshops are just as empowering as they are entertaining.
Female genital mutilation, or FGM, isn’t necessarily considered a problem in the United Kingdom, and Bristol student Fahma Mohamed has teamed up with The Guardian to end this misconception—and FGM in general—once and for all. By starting with Bristol and working her way up to international attention, Mohamed’s EndFGM campaign is now on its way to influence in the United States and Kenya.
Undoubtedly, Mohamed’s been making the right connections: EndFGM has received support from girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. And thanks to her hard work, Miss Mohamed has earned herself the title of Good Housekeeping’s Outstanding Young Campaigner of the Year.
Young Ta’Kaiya Blaney has the voice of an angel—and she’s using it to expose the oppression endured by First Nation indigenous communities. As a member of the Sliammon First Nation, Blaney was called to action by proposal of the Northern Gateway Pipeline to be built from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, British Columbia. Her song “Shallow Waters” directly addressed the environmental and cultural repercussions of constructing the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Blaney has continued to champion indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection through her music performances. But she’s made it clear that she’s more than a singer. “I feel that advocating and speaking at mere conferences isn’t enough,” Blaney admitted. “Actions speak louder than words.”