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Environment

This New Partnership Is Handing Out $1,000 Grants to Youth-Led Climate Projects in the US


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The tree-planting search engine Ecosia and the youth-led environmental group Earth Uprising are partnering up to support young climate activists with something that young people often lack — money.

The two environmental organizations are distributing a total of $13,500 to local, youth-led climate projects in the United States. Activists between the ages of 10 and 25 will have the chance to apply and receive up to $1,000 to fund their climate-related passion projects. Applications for these microgrants opened Wednesday, on the eve of Children’s Environmental Health Day.

Ecosia, a search engine that uses its advertising revenue to plant trees, has long been inspired by the impact of young people in the fight against climate change, according to Ruby Au, the company’s head of North America. After speaking with youth activists around the world, she realized that the best way Ecosia can support them is to provide funding.

“They already have the idea, plan, and passion, they just need some resources to make it happen,” Au told Global Citizen. 

Youth activists often aren’t asking for a large investment, but just enough to create a climate march poster or organize a community event, Au said. These microgrants of $50 to $1,000 will give young people the financial power to make a difference in their communities on an issue that their futures quite literally depend on.

“These microgrants are so important,” Anisa Nanavati, Earth Uprising’s North American coordinator, told Global Citizen. “I have heard one too many stories of youth activists having to pay thousands of dollars from their own pockets just to have strikes, hold events, and do their campaigns. They really shouldn’t have to go into their own pockets to get things done, because what they’re doing is for the greater good.”

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Nanavati, who is 16 years old, said that youth activism has become a “flashy” subject that adults like to talk about but don’t necessarily show up for when it comes time to provide support. The microgrants are a step in the right direction as they acknowledge that the voices and ideas of young people are valuable and worth bolstering.

Young people around the world have taken the lead in inspiring climate action and holding governments accountable. Most well-known is Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old leader of the now global Fridays for Future protest movement, through which students skip school on Fridays to strike for the climate.

American activist Alexandria Villaseñor, the 15-year-old founder of Earth Uprising, has also taken on a leading role in the global movement. Inspired by Thunberg, she started her own solo climate strike in front of the United Nations Headquarters in December 2018, and has since founded Earth Uprising, which has helped organize multiple climate strikes in New York City.

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In September 2019, Thunberg, Villaseñor, and 14 other youth activists filed an official complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest lack of the government action on the climate crisis. 

Besides the traditional forms of campaigning, Nanavati said she has seen her fellow youth activists get creative. Some have organized food banks, sustainable fashion shows, or art demonstrations, and others have produced songs or movies. She is excited to see the creativity that comes out of the microgrant applications. 

In terms of her own activism, Nanavati is particularly passionate about educating members of her community in Florida about the threats of climate change and how they will be impacted. Her hometown of Tampa is one of the cities in the US most vulnerable to climate change due to high risks of coastal flooding and sea-level rise.

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“Youth, at the end of the day, have the most at risk,” she said. “It is literally our future that we are fighting for. Our activism doesn’t come from a place of recreation — it’s us fighting for our own survival and the protection of our homes and our families and the planet as we know it.”

The microgrants from Ecosia and Earth Uprising encourage applicants to pursue projects that will benefit their local communities. The application also notes that priority will be given to communities disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.