This February, Patagonia announced the launch of Patagonia Action Works to a packed house in Santa Monica, California. It isn’t easy to pack a house in Los Angeles, with the traffic and long distances many people have to travel on a busy Friday night.
But this wasn’t your average event.
The lineup included some of the world’s most visible young activists who are also musicians, vegan chefs and poets. At a time in American history when political divides are wreaking havoc on the public’s morale, and an onslaught of discouraging news is causing many to rise up in action—while also making many tune out—this event offered a moment to pause and to listen, to turn down the banter and fear-mongering that’s pouring out from our news channels and turn towards a wholly different frequency: that of young voices, of hope, and in the words of the young people themselves, a willingness to stand up and lead in the name of love, love of planet, of community, of one another and of the future. Where the adults can’t or don’t seem willing to lead, they said, we will.
I was invited to moderate the panel based on my work helping leaders integrate resilience and a “planetary perspective” into their platforms for change. Through my work advising leaders—from indigenous leaders to first ladies to astronauts to public lands champions—I have witnessed that those leaders who are guided by the principles of interdependence are the most powerful. They have the ability to see connections across systems and hold a long view of how actions affect humans as well as the planet.
What struck me most about the young people on this panel was the absolute ease with which they incorporated this holistic approach into their own work and calls for action. They were not distracted or fragmented, as adults often assume of young people. These were teenagers—some still in high school—presenting visions and action plans that are holistic and intersectional, resilient and hopeful, targeted and inclusive.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, aka Kid Warrior, is a climate activist, a hip-hop artist and the Youth Director of Earth Guardians. He is the lead plaintiff in a youth-led lawsuit against the federal government for their failure to protect the atmosphere and has been referred to by Bill McKibben as “an impressive spokesman for a viewpoint the world needs to hear.” Editor’s note: An attempt by the government to block the lawsuit was just rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clearing the way for a date in court. When I asked Xiuhtezcatl how he helps Earth Guardian crews around the world, especially in countries where kids may not feel safe filing lawsuits against the government, he answered with a list of civic actions they can take, citing examples of how the smallest local groups can have the largest ripple effect over time.
Maricela Rosales is Latino Outdoors’ Los Angeles Coordinator. Through her work—which includes monthly outings into nature—she connects Latino families and children to the outdoors and supports the next generation of Latino leadership. She is part of the Nature for All Leadership Academy, and was chosen as one of the SHIFT program’s Emerging Leaders. When I asked Maricela about the intersection of racial justice and climate activism, she effortlessly contrasted the challenges of white fragility and tokenism with the power of storytelling and activating communities of color to protect our public lands. These lands belong to us all, she reminded the audience, not just the recreation and outdoor industries.
Jackson Hinkle is an environmental activist from San Clemente, California, and founder of the Team Zissou Environmental Organization. Jackson led a campaign called #PlasticFreeCUSD which just last month succeeded in getting Capistrano Unified School District to eliminate plastic bottles from all of its 64 school cafeterias. He is now taking on solar power and paper waste, and depending on where he ends up going to college, Jackson plans to run for city council. When I asked Jackson about how adults can support young people with their political ambitions, he outlined ways that young people—everyone, really—can attend local council meetings and just begin, wherever you are. It was a reminder of the inclusive and accessible side of politics that’s open to us all.
And finally, we ended the panel with a beautiful spoken word poem by Tru, a musician, producer, poet and host of ForTheFuture on Dash Radio. I encourage you to watch his segment on the Facebook live video from this event (begins at 1:05:37). It encapsulates how we are each ripples in a greater ocean, all part of a greater story “that begins and ends with us, that begins and ends with trust.”
Xiuhtezcatl and his peers have seen their elders fail on issues that directly impact them. Climate change will have serious and potentially fatal consequences on younger generations. Enough is enough they are saying. These young leaders will not back down.
The Patagonia Action Works event was energized and hopeful, and also called on adults to stand with young people, and to hold ourselves accountable for the world we created. I left the event saying, “With the Women’s March and #MeToo movements, 2017 felt like the year of the woman. Perhaps this year will be the year of youth.”
If we stand behind these young leaders as they are asking—demanding—we do, I have no doubt 2018 will become the year of youth.
Patagonia Action Works
For almost 40 years, Patagonia has supported grassroots activists working to find solutions to the environmental crisis. But in this time of unprecedented threats, it’s often hard to know the best way to get involved. That’s why we’re connecting individuals with our grantees, to take action on the most pressing issues facing the world today.