Climate Change is an urgent matter that we are learning more about each year - whether through research, first hand experience, and/or activists shining the light on the seriousness of these issues we must address. According to the Climate Vulnerability Report, roughly eleven percent of the world’s population are vulnerable to droughts, floods, rising sea levels and extreme weather events as a result of global warming.
Besides rising temperatures, we face increasing water scarcity, dangerous levels of air pollution, habitat destruction and mass extinction. Needless to say, it is time for human beings to take responsibility for our actions. Fortunately, many of us are.
Thanks to increasing eco-awareness and the power of social media, more people than ever before are waking up to the need for sustainable change. If you’re looking to do your part but need a little inspiration, where better to look than toward the activists, eco-warriors and conservation heroes who are already leading the way? This is your complete guide to environmental activists to follow, right now.
Young environmental warriors
Children and teenagers have become some of the loudest voices in the ‘green’ movement over the past decade. Their passion is hardly surprising, considering that they are the generation who will be left to pick up the pieces once irreversible environmental damage is done. Many youth climate activists have achieved truly remarkable things to reduce plastic pollution
, combat climate change and preserve the environment before even reaching eighteen. Here are some of the best up-and-coming environmentalists to follow:
Greta Thunberg - 17 - Sweden
No list of young environmental activists would be complete without Greta Thunberg. This fierce young activist gained notoriety by starting the global Fridays for Future movement, during which students around the world skip school to demand action against climate change. Greta is known for her refusal to pull any punches when challenging environmental policymakers. A notable example of this can be seen in her “How dare you” speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, which quickly went viral. Miss Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice and made Forbes “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list in 2019. Follow Greta Thunberg on Instagram and Twitter @gretathunberg
, or get involved with the Fridays for Future movement @fridaysforfuture
Feliquan Charlemagne - 17 - Florida, U.S.
Feliquan Charlemagne is the National Creative Director of US Youth Climate Strike. This up-and-coming environmentalist moved to Florida when his family was driven from their home in the U.S. Channel Islands, due to the economical and environmental impact of climate change. Feliquan is outspoken about the importance of people of colour campaigning for climate change. As a Caribbean national, he represents some of the most affected communities in the world and is committed to giving them a voice on the US stage. Check out Feliquan’s work on strikewithus.org
Autumn Peltier - 15 - Canada
Autumn is a fierce campaigner for water conservation and water rights for indigenous communities. Being Anishinaabe-kwe, Autumn has earned the title of Chief Water Protector for the people of the Wikwemikong First Nation. This young environmental activist is perhaps best known for publicly challenging Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his questionable environmental policies at just 12 years of age. In 2018, already a seasoned campaigner, Autumn addressed the UN General Assembly in New York on the issue of water protection. Unsurprisingly, her nickname is ‘Water Warrior’. Follow Autumn’s latest work on Instagram @autumn.peltier
Lilly Platt - 12 - Netherlands
In her 12 years, Lilly Platt has achieved more to promote environmental justice than most adults do in a lifetime. Lilly began her journey at age 7 by starting a regular environment clean-up event known as “Lilly’s Plastic Pickup”. In 2020, she was made Youth Ambassador for earth.org and the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Over her years of activism, Lilly is famous for having picked up over 100,000 pieces of litter. She also educates followers on the effects of plastic on wildlife and the ecosystem via her social media channels. Follow Lilly on Instagram @lilly’s_plastic_pickup
and Twitter @lillyspickup
Top environmental activist celebrities
As proud advocates for green living and environmental conservation, we believe strongly in the power of using celebrity status to raise awareness about climate change. Unfortunately, many well-meaning celebrity environmental activists come under fire for not entirely ‘practising what they preach’ when it comes to key climate change issues. Though that certainly is not true of any of the celebrities we’ve chosen! Here are some of the most dedicated celebrity environmentalists who not only, ‘talk the talk’, but ‘walk the walk’. Follow these folks if you want to learn more about green living, wildlife conservation, or simply want some guidance on sustainable fashion
Leonardo Dicaprio is probably one of the first names that spring to mind when it comes to celebrity environmental activists. Dicaprio is an active member of various conservation boards, including the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and Global Green USA. The actor also founded the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation in 1998 to campaign for and raise funds to support environmental change. He personally funded and produced the 2007 environmental awareness documentary “The 11th Hour”. Follow the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation’s work on Twitter @dicapriofdtn
Cate Blanchett is a proud ambassador for the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), a lifelong advocate for sustainable living and one of the most famous female environmental activists. The actress is known for taking part in the Green Carpet Challenge to promote sustainable fashion in 2014. Blanchett also funds SolarAid, an organisation that works in rural parts of Southern and East Africa fitting solar panels to community buildings. She lives in a “green” Sydney estate that is off the electrical grid and boasts a sophisticated rainwater recycling system. Follow Cate Blanchett’s work with ACF on Instagram @AusConservation
Throughout his career, James Cameron has been an avid campaigner for sustainable energy solutions. He also switched to a plant-based diet in 2012 to do his part in limiting the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Cameron launched a New Zealand-based meat and dairy alternatives company with colleague Peter Jackson, to make it easier for others to follow in his footsteps. The director is also known for meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, to offer assistance in dealing with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Follow Cameron on Twitter @jimCameron
Other game-changing environmentalists
You don’t have to be a banner-brandishing teen activist or a well-known household name to do your bit for the environment - the people coming up next have proven it. In every walk of life there exist relatively unsung heroes campaigning for environmental reform, generating practical solutions to combat climate change and fighting the good fight to protect life on earth. Here are a few of the best environmental activists from big business, science and traditional activism:
Paul Hawken is an entrepreneur who entered the business world by setting up one of the world’s first natural food companies, the Erewhon Trading Company, in the 1960s. His later work included founding green energy company OneSun in 2009. A visionary and long-standing champion of sustainable business practices, Hawken works to dismiss the idea that big business and environmentalism must have opposing interests. He has written several books on the subject, including The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism. In 2014, Hawken spearheaded project Drawdown to find the “100 most substantive solutions to global warming”. Follow Hawken on Instagram and Twitter @paulhawken
Jane Goodall is considered to be the world’s leading expert on primates and is most famous for her 60-year study on chimpanzee social interactions in Tanzania. The primatologist founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, an organisation dedicated to worldwide wildlife conservation. Goodall also serves on the board of animal welfare organisation the Nonhuman Rights Project and is the former president of Advocates for Animals. A lifelong vegetarian, she campaigns to raise awareness about the mistreatment and enslavement of farm animals. Goodall has been honoured for her humanitarian and environmental work throughout her life, receiving several prestigious awards including the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the Kyoto Prize. Follow Jane Goodall on Instagram @janegoodallau
Canadian-American activist Paul Watson was a founding member of Greenpeace. In 1975, he went on an anti-whaling expedition and made the fearless decision to put himself between harpoons and the whales he was there to protect. Watson is widely regarded as a controversial activist. In fact, these extreme methods saw him expelled from Greenpeace in 1977. Throughout his career, Watson has endured various arrests, convictions and fines for ‘eco-terrorism’ offences, including several attempts to sink whaling vessels. Paul Watson has earned himself the nickname ‘Whale Warrior’ due to his particular passion for marine life conservation. He founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct action group dedicated to preserving ocean habitats and poaching prevention, often with controversial tactics. Follow Watson on Instagram @captainpaulwatson @seashepherd
and Twitter @captpaulwatson
How to become an environmental activist
Making a move towards an environmentally conscious lifestyle can be so overwhelming that many people fail before they have even begun. If you are not sure where to start, remember that big changes do not happen overnight and that any small, positive step you take will make a difference. The environmental activists in our ‘ultimate list’ started small and look at what they have been able to achieve.
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