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Climate activists Xiye Bastida, Selina Neirok Leem, Alexandria Villaseñor speak on stage as Leonardo DiCaprio listens during the Global Citizen Festival on Sept. 28, 2019, in New York City.
Ryan Muir for Global Citizen
Environment

18-Year-Old Xiye Bastida Shares Her Path to Climate Activism in Moving TED Talk


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Xiye Bastida’s grandmother protected sacred land from business interests. Her father is an educator who urges others to live in harmony with the planet. 

When Bastida began to learn about the climate and ecological crisis engulfing the planet, her family’s heritage made it easy to become an activist. 

The 18-year-old climate activist has since become a leading voice in the fight for regenerative climate action to heal the planet. 

She shared her story of activism and her hope for the future in a new TED Talk called “Why I Fight for Climate Justice” delivered as a letter to her abuelita.

“The world is so big, and it has so many bad habits,” she says. “I didn't know how a 15-year-old was supposed to change anything, but I had to try.”

In the video, Bastida talks about how her love for the planet pushed her to join environmental groups in high school. She was quickly disenchanted by the greenwashed ideology she encountered.

“It was a view of environmentalism that was so catered towards an ineffective way of climate activism, one that blames the consumer for the climate crisis and preaches that temperatures are going up because we forgot to bring a reusable bag to the store,” she says.

Rather than go solo, she convinced her club members to focus on structural change and she sought out activists who went after powerful companies and political leaders who promoted the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. 

She soon learned about Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” grassroots school strike campaign and organized a New York chapter. She began skipping school every Friday to call for climate action alongside her peers. 

Since then, she’s spoken with world leaders, attended major climate events, and continued to organize. In 2019, Bastida came to the Global Citizen Festival to talk about her family’s displacement from climate change — and call for climate action. 

In her TED Talk, she talks about wanting to spend her days studying to become a doctor or engineer, but the worsening state of the planet compels her to activism. 

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“The planet is suffering, and we don't have the luxury of time anymore,” she says. “Saving the world as a teenager means being good with words, understanding the science behind the climate crisis, bringing a unique perspective into the issue to stand out and forgetting about almost everything else.

“But sometimes, I want to care about other things again. I want to be able to sing and dance and do gymnastics. I truly feel that if all of us took care of the earth as a practice, as a culture, none of us would have to be full-time climate activists.”

Xiye Bastida-002.jpgXiye Bastida speaks at TED-Ed Weekend at TED World Theater, February 2020, New York, NY.
Image: Ryan Lash/TED

Ultimately, Bastida wants to fulfill the dreams of her grandmother and father, to build a society that lives in harmony with the planet. 

“I do this work because you showed me that resilience, love and knowledge are enough to make a difference,” she says. “I want to go back to Mexico and visit you. I want to show you the pictures of the things that I have done. I want to show you the climate legislation that we've been able to pass. I want to smell the flowers and fight for climate justice alongside you.”

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