WE The Youth: Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh

Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh

15 year-old Xiuhtezcatl is making waves – literally! The environmental activist and speaker is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, a youth-led climate movement that’s taking major action to change the world. He believes that age is just a number when it comes to taking action, and is proving it each and every day, from getting governments to change their policies, to being one of the 24 youth that are serving on the President’s Youth Council. We spoke with Xiuhtezcatl about why he’s excited to be at WE Day, and how young people like him can start a movement of their very own.
Xiuhtezcatl quote 1
Why don’t you tell me about why you’re pumped to be at WE Day?

I think that it’s a really powerful gathering of people, because I think that people who have huge reach are speaking to young people and empowering them. It’s all about positivity – it’s about solutions and it’s about Living WE – I love that message, and it’s very in-line with everything that I’ve been fighting for my entire life. And it’s 16,000 kids in an audience – it’s all positivity; it’s uplifting them and the fact that they have to do service projects, earn their way into [WE Day] – that’s so exciting too! I’m super stoked about that.

You’re a pretty outspoken advocate and have been speaking out since you were 6 years old. How did you become an environmental activist?

Yeah, it’s been quite the journey.  I started just with a passion for nature, and being outside – I’m from Boulder, Colorado, and there’s beautiful mountains, beautiful rivers and lakes, and being in that environment all the time just kind of made me fall in love with the world. Watching documentaries and learning and kind of teaching myself about the crisis – this planet that I’m totally in love with is falling apart. And that every problem that I’ve seen is left to my generation and future generations, so it just really uplifted me and empowered me to do something with this sadness that I had, and to use my voice and use my passion to make a difference in other people’s lives and try to educate, empower and inspire. I’ve been on that path for 10 years now!

You’ve made some pretty bold actions in the last little while, including suing the US government!

It was pretty powerful for young people to get involved in the legal system, because we can’t vote. The next election is going to have a huge impact not only on our country, but the world and the way we deal with huge problems like climate change. We don’t have the power to vote, so our voices as a generation are most affected by the decisions made by our leaders; we need our voices to be heard in one way.Xiuhtezcatl quote 2

Why don’t you tell us about how Earth Guardians came to be and how you got involved?

Earth Guardians started as an accredited high school in Maui, Hawaii in 1992, and it was a school that helped plant 10,000 Sandalwood trees on the island and bring the whales back to Maui, and did all kinds of powerful work – it was started by my mom actually! They did a tour across the United States and engaged thousands of young people on their way.

I got involved when I was 9, where myself and 10 of my friends were concerned about the pesticides that were being sprayed in our parks – I’ve done some previous activism and I knew that there were other kids in my community that were concerned about it as well. We went to the city council and we got them to spend over $10,000 to rewrite the entire integrated pest management forum. We deserve a healthy environment to live in—they no longer spray any pesticides in public parks in Boulder, Colorado.

What is the one key message that you want youth to take away at WE Day?

I think the most important message that I want young people to take home with them is that whether it’s in our community or in the world – taking up the role of a leader is really important and really powerful, and our entire lives are going to be touching and impacting the lives of those around us. I see myself as a leader for sure, but there is nothing holding back any other 15-year-old on the planet to achieve what I have. Every young person in the world has the potential to lead!

Thank you Xiuhtezcatl for chatting with us! Catch Xiuhtezcatl’s inspiring story on the WE Day broadcast on August 28, 7/6C on ABC!