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7 Environmentalists Inspiring Climate Action

Climate
A boy gives an impromptu speech about him not wanting to die in the next 10 years during the protest on July 15. The Scottish wing of the Extinction Rebellion environmental group of Scotland locked down Glasgow's Trongate for 12 hours in protest of climate change. Stewart Kirby / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.


1. Gail Bradbrook

Co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Gail Bradbrook addresses the audience at the Marble Arch Extinction Rebellion camp. Several roads were blocked across four sites in central London, by the Extinction Rebellion climate change protests, April 2019.

Phil Clarke Hill / In Pictures / Getty Images

Molecular biophysicist Gail Bradbrook is the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion (XR). She's been referred to as the "Godmother" of this international environmental movement "that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimize the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse." Bradbrook first co-founded the group Rising Up!, which then progressed and became XR.

For more insight into what Bradbrook's all about, check out these articles below:

The Global Extinction Rebellion Begins, Truthout.

Gloucestershire mum is 'Godmother' of group behind naked Commons protests who want to bring London to a standstill today, Gloucestershire Live.

2. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg, outside the Swedish parliament.

Anders Hellberg / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired an entire generation of kids to participate in her "Fridays for Future" protest movement. Just last month, Greta and her movement were honored with an Amnesty International award for their "unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights."

Thunberg's speeches are collected in her book No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference. She has said that she hopes the book causes panic. "I want you to panic … I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."

If you're looking for a good place to follow what's going on with the climate crisis, follow Greta on Twitter.

3. Naomi Klein

Author, social activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaks at the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria on On Sept. 20, 2018. Hundreds gathered in Union Square demanding justice for Puerto Rico.

Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, activist and author. Since publishing her New York Times bestseller This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein has become a strong force in the environmental movement.

Klein has a new book coming out in September, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. The book is described as an expansive, far-ranging exploration that "captures the urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the energy of a rising political movement demanding change now."

4. Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben speaking with supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at a student meeting at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, New Hampshire on Jan. 21, 2016.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist and activist. He is the founder of 350.org. Nearly 30 years ago, he published the first book on climate change, The End of Nature, written for the average person to understand the looming crisis. No climate activist list would ever be complete without acknowledging McKibben's consistent dedication to our planet.

Vox recently interviewed McKibben and captured his best advice.

5. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is pictured in the beautiful foothills of north Boulder on Aug. 11, 2016 in Boulder, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 19-year-old Indigenous environmental activist, musician and youth director of Earth Guardians. He recently told Rolling Stone, "I've been protesting since before I could walk."

He's also one of the plaintiffs on the youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the U.S. federal government. For more on the trial, follow EcoWatch including this article that discusses what's happening with this lawsuit.

Martinez recently wrote an op-ed in Teen Vogue in April that explains the power of young voices. "Young people and marginalized communities are reclaiming our power and our voices in the movements that are shaping our future. From Standing Rock to Flint, from the Bayou to DC, we're beginning to see a different face of environmental leadership," he said.

6. Bea Johnson

French-American Bea Johnson shows the waste produced in a year by her family fitting in a bottle of 183 grams, on Nov. 21, 2015 in Lille, northern France. Bea Johnson and her family adopted a behavior tending to "zero waste" and campaign for a "life based on being and not having."

PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP / Getty Images

Bea Johnson fits a year's worth of trash into a jar. Yes, just one little pint-sized mason jar! She is a pioneer of the zero-waste movement. Refinery29 featured her in a recent article titled Marie Kondo Came For Your Stuff; Bea Johnson Is Coming For Your Garbage.

Johnson's blog, Zero Waste Home, and her book by the same name have inspired an entire movement devoted to a minimalist lifestyle. She believes that a zero-waste lifestyle is not only good for the planet, but also for our personal health. The book garnered international interest and has been translated into 26 languages.

Johnson was recently interviewed by Here and Now's Peter O'Dowd. Listen below for five tips on how to live a more zero-waste life.

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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