There’s a lot of things in the world that aren’t going right – be it the amount of food we waste, or issues within the political landscape that leave us feeling unsettled.
But do these things leave you feeling deeply disturbed and that you should do something to help – no matter how small – to inspire positive change?
That’s probably how many activists felt before they stepped up to do something about an issue they felt passionate about, instead of merely grumbling about the problem or waiting for someone else to take action.
Cambridge Dictionary describes ‘activist’ as “a person who believes strongly in political or social change and takes part in activities such as public protests to try to make this happen”.
So whether you’re passionate about animal welfare, the lack of awareness around certain diseases among your community, climate change or even policies that affect you, you can take small actions to do something about it.
But if you need a push to get you started, here are some young people who will inspire you to get all cylinders firing towards your cause.
Who said youth is wasted on the young?
Like any teenager, Stella Bowles grew up playing in the river behind her house. Unlike any teenager, she secured $15.7 million for a large-scale river cleanup when she discovered dangerous levels of e-coli.
— Green Party Canada (@CanadianGreens) January 19, 2019
Bowles’ story is unique – in 2015, she learned that sewage pipes were being drained directly into the LaHave River in Nova Scotia where she lives, rendering it unsanitary for anyone to swim in it.
“For years now, people have been flushing their toilets directly into the water through straight pipes. Straight pipes are illegal, but no one is telling people to stop. Putting human waste in our waterways is so gross and wrong.
“I decided to start a project on testing the river after my mum explained to me how high the faecal levels really are. Most people thought the river was getting healthier, but that just isn’t true. Our river is very sick,” she wrote on her blog.
After posting her test results for the public to see, the matter received a lot of attention from both the media and government leaders. She has since secured a CA$15.7 million plan for a large-scale river cleanup. At only 14, Bowles has already been named among Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.
.@Malala Yousafzai says that when she meets with Presidents and Prime Ministers, or other people in positions of power, her goal is always to speak the truth: https://t.co/ln2kVJfNt1 pic.twitter.com/8FlYDySitN
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) January 22, 2019
Malala is known around the world for defying the Taliban in Pakistan by demanding that girls be allowed to receive an education. Because of this, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus. Malala woke up 10 days later in a hospital in Birmingham, England.
After recuperating, her passion never wavered – she continued campaigning for girls to receive an education through the Malala Fund, which she established with her father. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014, becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate.
In a Vogue interview, Malala explained that many girls risk sexual violence or street harassment to get to school, while some do not have access to working restrooms. “The hardest thing is to see a girl nearly my age, with all the dreams and aspirations that I have, stuck in a situation she didn’t create and unable to choose her own future,” she said.
Today, she’s a student at the prestigious University of Oxford, and continues to balance her time between her studies and foundation work, demonstrating that resilience and hard work are the cornerstones to success.
Last year, @GretaThunberg sat down outside the Swedish parliament with a hand-written sign and determination to fight for the environment. Today she’s the face of a global movement. via @guardian https://t.co/DDi2NPJdRf
— Malala Fund (@MalalaFund) March 13, 2019
Despite being only 16-years-old, Thunberg has already galvanised students across the globe, inspiring them to march for greater action to be taken on climate change.
She learnt about climate change at the age of eight; when she was 11, she fell into depression, which she partly attributes to the issue. Last year, Thunberg, who has Asperger Syndrome, started skipping school to sit outside the Swedish Parliament, demanding for their policies to fall in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
She wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo and has already inspired strikes across all corners of the globe. On March 14 this year, Greta was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez: ‘Our greed is destroying the planet’ http://t.co/DMUwelceSv
— Guardian Environment (@guardianeco) October 9, 2015
Before the rise of Greta Thunberg was Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) Roske-Martinez, 18, another prominent youth activist on the climate change crusade.
The indigenous climate activist does his work through Earth Guardians, for which he is Youth Director. According to the website, he started campaigning for environmental justice at the age of six while his 2015 speech at the United Nations (jump to 0.15) made waves on social media.
Through this platform, he has travelled extensively, educating young people on the state of the planet and inspiring them to take action. He has also worked towards getting pesticides out of parks and is among those suing the US Federal Government for failing to address climate change.