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Activist tackles climate change at UNC

By Kaila Ward
On April 15, 2017

On Friday night at the Garden Theatre, Student Leadership for Environmental Action Fund brought a young climate change activist, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, to speak about his experiences and views on our changing climate. 

Martinez began with a keynote address, followed by a concert from his new album, “Break Free.” UNC senior Kaleigh Berry, environmental sustainability major and a major member of the Leadership for Environmental Action Fund, explained the choice to bring the young activist to UNC.

“We saw what Xiuhtezcatl was doing in the community for climate change and we thought there was no better person to bring here,” Berry said.

At only 16-years-old,  Martinez is one of the world’s youngest climate change activists, but his age does not stop him and his family from going to great lengths to protect the planet. 

“My mother started an organization in 1992 called Earth Guardians,” Martinez said. “In this world it can feel like young people’s voices aren’t heard, but really we want to get involved.”

As the night continued, Martinez emphasized his personal connection to the Earth through his Indigenous, Aztec tribe heritage, in the name ‘Meshika.’ 

“Being Meshika, we have a connection to the land,” Martinez said. “As people we have the responsibility to protect what gives us life because we all depend on the same planet.” 

Martinez shifted gears to specifically enlighten the UNC community on issues in Weld County. Martinez highlighted how Weld County alone has over 20,000 fracking wells, and proposals are in for two new wells to be built only 500 yards away from Bella Romero Middle School. With this information, Martinez quickly issued a call to action. 

“If climate change continues at this rate, by the end of the century climate change will displace one billion people,” Martinez said. 

After the presentation, Martinez and his sister, Isa, performed “Tick Tock” and “Magic” off his new hip-hop album, “Break Free.” The music got the large audience on their feet as the siblings blended hip-hop rhythm with deep messages on climate change. 

During the event, Berry emphasized a fundamental principle of the climate crisis.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in a healthy environment, but I still saw what was going on,” Berry said. “I like to stress that everyone has a personal stake in climate change.”

Tristan Kosinski, a sophomore and business management major, also took away many insights from the event.

“I learned a lot more about the environmental crisis we are currently in and how we have to fight back against it,” Kosinski said. 

To close the night, Martinez spoke about his involvement in a national lawsuit against the Trump administration on the basis that the government is not protecting basic human rights.

“Our government is supporting an industry that is poisoning our communities,” Martinez said. “People need to rise up to protect our Earth,” he said.

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