10-Year-Old Activist Francisco Javier Vera Is Calling On The Colombian Government To Act Against Climate Change
Greta Thunberg has been gaining international fame as the face of youth climate activism, making deeply moving speeches in front of both massive crowds and the world’s most powerful leaders. Thunberg is not the only jovencit@ fighting for environmental justice—children and teenagers all across the globe are (and have been) purporting the same message for years. Thunberg’s rising fame has catapulted this message to the mainstream media, garnering the attention it so desperately deserves. Another awesome kid at the forefront of this movement? Colombia’s Francisco Javier Vera, a 10-year-old activist calling on the Colombian government to enact more effective climate legislation in the immediate future.
On December 20, Vera led a dozen other niños in a march of protest against government inaction on the issue of climate change. Vera is not only protesting and raising awareness through a wide range of platforms—he recently addressed the Colombian Senate with an impassioned speech calling for conscious environmental action at the government level.
He addressed the officials in Spanish, but the English translation reads:
“Today, I came to represent my group Guardianes Por La Vida to ask everyone to be conscious of the damage we’ve caused the environment, you and me, the damage we’ve caused. I ask you, as senators of the republic . . . legislate for our lives. For example, go against fracking campaigns, animal testing, single-use plastic, and the mistreatment of animals. We are, in my opinion, unfairly tasked as children to fight for our planet.”
Vera also urged the Colombian Senate to vote against a major tax reform bill, claiming that it disrespects and would ultimately harm the rural populations of Colombia. These populations are often the most susceptible to the effects of natural disasters, as well as the most likely to suffer without resources in the aftermath of a severe storm.
Over the past few years, the Colombian government has worked to improve climate disaster prevention by relocating high-risk neighborhoods, constructing retaining walls in areas vulnerable to landslides and floods, and reducing annual deforestation. Indeed, as climate change continues to evolve, populations on the deforested slopes of the Andes Mountains—as well as those placed along riverbeds—are most at risk for severe floods and avalanches. Cities in the Andean country have a cumulative population of about 49 million people, all of whom are in constant danger of potentially devastating climate events.
Luis Gilberto Murillo, a former mining engineer who served as Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development from 2016 to 2018, told Reuters in 2017 that “Colombia is very vulnerable to phenomena of extreme climate variability and climate change.” He added that around 500 municipalities are constantly on medium or alert for flood and landslide risks.
“We have to move toward a culture of prevention and response to early warnings. Close to 12 million people are in high-risk conditions,” said Murillo.
In 2017, Colombia unveiled the country’s National Climate Change Policy, which aimed to expand existing programs that addressed the risks of climate change, from disaster management plans to financial protection plans to strategies for emissions reduction. Twenty-three separate regions proposed their own plans for climate change, and all state capitals included climate change on their respective development plans. The country committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, acknowledging that another 10% cut could be achieved with international support.
These efforts may not prove to be enough. Many scientists are reassessing their original estimates about the rate at which climate change would unfold—few people thought that the effects of our warming planet would arrive so quickly, and the unexpected nature (not to mention the urgency) of this situation is not lost on the Earth’s youth.
“There is little time left. For our home to not reach its end we need to help it, to look after it, and to love it,” said Vera. “There’s no Plan B. This is the only planet in the universe that sustains life, and if it’s the only one and it comes to an end? Then life ends.”
Damn, boy. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but this sounds so wise coming from the mouth of a young child. And when you see a 10-year-old kid advocating for legislative action so that he and his peers can live long, fruitful lives on a beautiful and abundant planet, doesn’t it make you wonder what the heck you were doing when you were 10? If you’re a millennial who grew up in the 90s or the aughts, you were blessed with the innocence—the ignorance—of the times, and you had the luxury of ignoring the terrors of our imminent climate crisis. Today’s kids aren’t so lucky, and they deserve all the support they can get as they fight for their right to a clean and healthy Earth.