Things That Matter

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.

Credit: Columbia University / phys.org

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.”

Credit: Oro Noticias

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.

READ: Activists Interrupt Harvard-Yale Football Game To Protest Climate Change And Cancel Puerto Rico Debt Holdings

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#VoteLikeAMadre Is Committing Latinas To Vote To Save The Planet For Their Children

Things That Matter

#VoteLikeAMadre Is Committing Latinas To Vote To Save The Planet For Their Children

@salmahayek / Instagram

The 2020 election is heating up. There are a lot of hot button issues at stake from reproductive rights and affordable access to healthcare to climate change and civil rights. The Latino Victory Project is using their resources to get Latinas to commit to voting with the understanding that their children will inherit the world they leave behind. Here’s how.

The #VoteLikeAMadre campaign is just that, voting like a mother.

The campaign is getting people, specifically Latinas, to vote for their children. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing people during the 2020 elections. That is why #VoteLikeAMadre is asking for people to pinky promise a better future for their children using their ability to vote.

The campaign hinges on the most important promise you can make to your kids: a pinky promise.

A pinky promise is so important with the children, you know. We all remember making our parents make pinky promises to make things happen for us to to give us things we really wanted. They were unbreakable promises that you constantly reminded your parents of making.

People are already taking the pledge to vote for candidates who have plans to combat climate change.

An estimated 1 billion people live in areas that are being affected by climate change. These people could all become climate refugees by 2050. That is one-seventh of the world’s population being displaced because of climate change. Our actions now can help to mitigate some of the damage that scientists expect.

People of color are among the most vulnerable communities when it comes to the negatives affects of climate change.

Latinos, as well as other communities of color, put a lot of importance on the climate crisis. Environmental justice is an issue that Latinos have been fighting for as our communities are often subjected to negative climate and environmental issues. According to a Yale study on climate change, Latinos are the most concerned about the climate crisis and its impact.

Early voters are already following through with their promises to fight for the climate.

Fighting for the climate is the same as fighting for the children. It is not a surprise that those who are younger will be the ones to inherit and live on the planet longer. Actions now can either ruin or save the planet and its climate for the generations to come.

“Many people assume that the only people who really care about climate change are white, well-educated, upper-middle-income, latte-sipping liberals, and it’s just not true,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication told PBS. “Actually, the racial and ethnic group that cares more about climate change than any other is Latinos.”

You can learn more about #VoteLikeAMadre, go to their website.

You can learn more about the campaign and the fight to save the climate here. Share with us about what you want to see most in the next leaders of the U.S. by commenting below.

READ: American Latinos United Launches Committee To Take Down President Trump In 2020

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#BlackLivesMatter Is Trending In Colombia After Five Black Teens Were Killed While Playing On Their Street

Things That Matter

#BlackLivesMatter Is Trending In Colombia After Five Black Teens Were Killed While Playing On Their Street

Luis Robayo / Getty Images

Despite countrywide stay-at-home orders that are among the world’s most strict, and even cartel-enforced lockdowns, crime is on the rise across Colombia. The increase has been driven by massacre-style attacks on the country’s most vulnerable communities: Afro-Colombians and Indigenous groups.

The recent torture and murder of five black teens who had stepped outside to fly kites, has reignited the conversation on race and how the government can step up to make sure minority groups across the country can be better protected.

A group of Afro-Latino teens were found tortured and murdered in Cali, Colombia.

Five Black teenagers left their homes in a neighborhood in Cali, Colombia, to fly their kites and play on a recent August morning. The young friends, aged between 14 and 18, didn’t show up at home for lunch. By midday, their mothers were looking for them.

“The boys were found tortured, burned, with machete and bullet wounds,” said Erlendy Cuero, a social leader from Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city. “Right now, the people who live here are sad but also very scared.”

Community members recently led a protest denouncing racism and violence inflicted by the Colombian state, and demanding justice for the murdered teens and other Afro-Colombian people who’ve been killed.

The mother of one of the Cali victims said: “Because we’re vulnerable and black, lots of people think they can walk all over us and forget about what happened to our children. Don’t let it be forgotten.”

The brutal killings are a reminder to Colombians that ethnic minorities are the most affected by violence.

Credit: Luis Robayo / Getty Images

Colombia is a country that has grown accustom to violence, but the massacre of these Black teens has shocked the country as a whole. And it’s brought to light a very real issue of racism in the country and shown exactly which communities suffer the most: ethnic minorities.

The recent masacre has also illuminated cracks in the still fragile peace deal between the government and former-FARC rebels. Just days after the boys were found murdered, a grenade was thrown at the police station in Llano Verde. The attack injured 15 people and left one man dead.

“We can’t assure they’re related, but neither can we rule out that hypothesis,” said Jorge Iván Ospina, Cali’s mayor.

The communities that suffer the most from widespread violence, are the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. They have little protection from the central government in Bogota. However, it appears that finally, Colombians are starting to realize that peace will never be possible without listening to those communities who are most affected by violence.

Massacres are on the rise across the country, despite countrywide stay-at-home orders.

Colombia has been under one of the world’s longest running lockdown orders thanks to the Coronavirus. However, the number of massacres carried out this year is record breaking. In 2020, there have been at least 43 massacres leaving at least 181 dead.

The majority of them are taking place in the country’s south-west, home to larger populations of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities. Although responsibility for the massacres remains unclear, the government is pointing fingers at drug cartels. Families of victims though disagree, saying that their loved ones had no involvement with the drug trade.

A frequent complaint in these areas is that there is no government presence, allowing elements of armed groups that did not accept the peace agreements made in 2016 by the previous government of Juan Manuel Santos to fight for control of territory. 

The massacres are at least bringing forth a conversation on race and vulnerable communities in the country.

From police brutality to government indifference, Black and Indigenous Colombians live very different lives from the rest of the country. They’re more often targeted for abuse by police, they’re more likely to fall victim to massacres, and the government affords them little in the way of official protections from discrimination.

The recent murder of the teens from Cali, is finally bringing the #BlackLivesMatter conversation to a country that has long denied the existence of racism within its borders.

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