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10 Young Black Climate Activists to Watch

Black climate activists Leah Thomas, Isra Hirsi, and Jerome Foster II are pictured on a green background with an abstract design of Earth.

A heartbreaking fact of our times: All living people today were born into the climate crisis. Whether someone’s 8 or 85, we all live on a planet whose climate is rapidly declining due to human impact. But here’s the thing—while climate catastrophes currently affect us all, it’s our youngest generation, and in particular, young People of the Global Majority, that will suffer the greatest burden. Thankfully, there are lots of inspiring young Black climate activists that are bringing light to the intersection of climate change and racism. Keep reading to learn about 10 young Black climate activists that are sending a message of both hope and resilience in this fight.

Why Youth Are Crucial in the Fight

It’s an outdated, damaging viewpoint that says children should be “seen not heard.” Young voices should be cherished, celebrated, and engaged with. 

Youth Are More Connected Than Ever Before

Young people are more connected than ever. Social media has a huge role in modern-day social change movements; we’ve all witnessed the incredible power of hashtags such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #BlackLivesMatter, so it’s only fitting that environmental activism is as much online as it is in the streets. Utilizing this connectedness is our modern-day superpower. 

Young People Are the Largest Generation Of Youth, Ever

Young people today are already the largest generation of youth to ever exist. They represent a huge cohort of society that has valuable voices to add to the fight against climate change. We also mustn’t forget youth in the Majority World —as they represent a staggering 88% of young people globally. When young people’s voices come together, it’s a beautiful thing. 

Youth Should Know About Collective Care

“In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.” – Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Individualism is a toxic trait of colonialist thinking. If we shift to a culture of collectivism, then we empower people to join their community and stand for something. When we communicate the ideal of collective care and collective responsibility to children early on, we can teach them that public health is important. We must show them that we should always protect and advocate for vulnerable, minoritized communities, and how the Global South is vital in this conversation. 

Tackling the Climate Crisis: 10 Young Black Climate Activists Who Are Charging Ahead

1. Isra Hirsi, United States

Born into a family of changemakers, Irsa Hirsi has been involved in activism since she was just 12 years old. Emboldened by a case of police brutality against a Black man in Minneapolis, Irsa added her voice to the city’s mass Black Lives Matter-led protests. During high school, Irsa became involved with environmental activism, going on to co-found the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She was featured in Fortune’s 40 Under 40 Government and Politics in 2020 due to her climate activism. 

2. Leah Thomas, United States


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Leah Thomas (@greengirlleah) • Instagram photos and videos

Leah Thomas is a leading voice in the intersectional environmentalism movement. Also known as “Green Girl Leah,” Leah launched her community, The Intersectional Environmentalist, in 2020. It’s an educational climate justice collective which spearheads more diversity in climate activism. She’s since written the book The Intersectional Environmentalist and the Instagram page of the same name, which has nearly half a million followers. 

3. Vanessa Nakate, Uganda

In 2020, at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate attended to encourage world leaders to take the climate crisis seriously. But when a photo was published of her and four other activists, you’d never have known she was there. She was cropped out. Instead, the Associated Press published the photo of four white activists. Her experience and the dialogue she started afterward remind us how much we need to diversify the climate activism space. 

4. Livia Pinaso, Brazil


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Livia Pinaso (@viapinaso) • Instagram photos and videos

Livia Pinaso is behind the Brazilian branch of the youth-led organization, Polluters Out. The group’s lens is on COP25, calling on them to address their failures in tackling the fossil fuel industry. Her efforts and voice are particularly potent in a nation that is home to the largest rainforest on Earth, the Amazon. 

5. Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, United States


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Mari Copeny (@littlemissflint) • Instagram photos and videos

Nicknamed ‘Little Miss Flint’, Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny wrote a letter to then-president Barack Obama when she was just eight years old. She told him of the water crisis in her hometown, Flint, Michigan, and how their water was contaminated with lead. Her widely-publicized campaigning eventually saw Obama authorize money to help solve the issue. Sadly, as of 2023, the crisis is ongoing. 

6. Russell Raymond, Dominica

Russell Raymond is another activist that fights climate change from a place of heartbreaking experience. In 2017, a hurricane ripped through his home on the Caribbean island of Dominica. Now, as a climate activist, he serves as a Youth Advocate for UNICEF. 

7. Vic Barret, United States


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Vic J. Barrett (@vicbarrett_) • Instagram photos and videos

In 2015, Vic Barret, along with 20 other youth plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against the United States government. In the lawsuit, they accused the government of knowingly violating their rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as neglecting their duty to protect public grounds by permitting the combustion of fossil fuels. His activism and passion are inspired by his hero, environmentalist, and Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores. 

8. Yurshell Rodriguez, Colombia

In late 2020, Yurshell Rodríguez, a member of Colombia’s Indigenous Raizal community, saw her home completely devastated by Hurricane Iota. As an Environmental Engineer at the National University of Colombia, Yurshell is driven by a passion for protecting the coral reefs that surround the island she grew up on, Old Providence in the Caribbean. A significant win for the climate activist was in 2018, when she and a group of other activists won a case against the Colombian government, holding it accountable for its failure to stop Amazon rainforest deforestation.

9. Leah Namugerwa, Uganda


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Namugerwa Leah (@namugerwaleah) • Instagram photos and videos

A true advocate for trees, Leah Namugerwa is a youth climate activist from Uganda, who’s become well-known for her tree-planting campaigns. She’s so passionate about planting trees to help combat excess carbon, that for her 15th birthday she celebrated by hosting a tree planting party. Her Birthday Trees Project encourages seedlings given to people on their birthdays if this is how they choose to celebrate. 

10. Jerome Foster II, United States & United Kingdom


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Jerome Foster II (@jeromefosterii) • Instagram photos and videos

As the youngest-ever White House Advisor in American history, Jerome Foster II is a force in the environmental movement. He’s a leading organizer for Fridays for Future and started his charitable organization called One Million Of Us—a group that mobilizes young people to stand up for the climate. 

Let Our Youth Inspire You To Engage

If you’re not already following a youth climate activist, honestly what are you waiting for? I’ve found so much inspiration from their political engagement, partnerships, legal actions, and lawsuits. The more voices we have in the effort to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, the better.

Young or Not, Here’s How To Get Involved 

While there’s a whole host of factors that are causing the climate crisis, if we all picked a cause and made a little effort, then we’d see mass collective action. 

There’s an abundance of ways that you and your family can dive headfirst into climate action. If you’re after a few ideas, here’s what has worked for us as a family.  

  • Reduce our consumption of fast fashion. As a family, we choose to support brands with clear ethical practices. If shopping new, we utilize the Good On You app before making a purchase. As a reminder, thrifting is always a sustainable option.! 
  • Try to eat more plant-based meals. An Oxford study identified that going vegan is the single biggest way an individual can reduce our carbon footprint. By eating plant-based, you can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73%. 
  • If you eat fish, choose responsibly-sourced options to disrupt the overfishing emergency (or better yet, cut out fish altogether!). 
  • Head to your nearest crop-swapping meet-up, and swap herbs, vegetables, and fruit from your garden. If you don’t have a garden, try out community-supported agriculture (CSA) for locally-grown produce. 
  • If you have the space and resources, try composting. This is also a wonderful way to introduce children to the cycles of nature, and have them care for worm friends! 

We can do this planet-changing work together. I’m rooting for you.

Raising inclusive, antiracist children is a noble goal for any parent, caregiver, or educator—start with this book.

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Development North Star Sites
Photography Bethany Brewster