• McKenzie Julian

16-year-old activist speaks at GC on climate change

On Thursday, April 20, climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez spoke to more than 200 Georgia College students during an Earth Week event on the importance of sustainability and what they can do to help the environment.

“I think the first thing that’s really important is to establish a sense of passion to do something, an interest,” Martinez said. “Be educated about the issues and then connect with other people that are on that same level.”

Martinez began speaking about climate change and the importance of environmental action when he was six years old. Over the past decade, he has traveled across the world and spoken to thousands of people in hopes to inspire them to action and to create change.

In 2015, Martinez, along with 20 other youth leaders, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on the basis of the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness granted to citizens under the Constitution. Martinez believes that the government has failed to act responsibly on the issue of climate change.

“It is a fundamental right to have a stable climate to protect these constitutional rights,” Martinez said.

The government filed a motion to dismiss in order to prevent Martinez from going to court, but the motion was reviewed and overturned by two judges from different federal courts in Eugene, Oregon. Martinez and the other plaintiffs have a court date that should be scheduled for sometime this fall.

“We’re very optimistic about it. We’ve made a lot of progress thus far, and there’s a lot of momentum worldwide,” Martinez said. “We are super excited about this issue and the possibility this has to actually create some tangible, long-lasting change.”

Senior Emma Brodzik, an economics major and SGA’s director of environmental affairs, helped the Office of Sustainability bring Martinez to GC. Brodzik, along with the rest of the Sustainability Council, has been planning this event since August for the annual Sustainability Symposium.

The symposium is put on each year using funds earned through the sustainability fee students pay each semester. The goal of the symposium is to bring in a speaker or have some form of activity in which students can learn more about practical ways to take part in environmental action.

Brodzik said she was excited to bring in Martinez.

“He’s kind of famous in his own right, which has been really exciting learning more about him as we’ve gotten closer to bringing him here,” Brodzik said.

Front Campus was filled with about 250 students interested in hearing Martinez’s story. Senior Jessica Craigg, an environmental science and geography double major, said she found Martinez’s speech interesting.

“I think he was really well-spoken. I think he made a lot of good points about the connections between minority communities and women and them being disproportionately affected by climate change,” Craigg said.

Martinez spoke about the many climate change issues the world is currently facing and what he is doing to try to make a difference.

“He was very empowering,” said senior Andrew Wright, an environmental science major. “Seeing the change that he’s doing and the stuff that all these people that turned out [do] and want to hear about this issue makes me feel so much better about what’s going on.”

Junior Jake Deitch, an environmental science major, took Martinez’s message to heart. He said he believes that students and youth can make a difference in their communities and protect the earth.

“We have a voice, and we have a passion for this,” Deitch said. “It’s our only home, so why not protect it? Why not speak out?”


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