4 Activist Girls Trying To Save The World From Climate Change "When we organize, we model the world we want to see," says teenager Xiye Bastida. Activist girls like Bastida have been especially visible in the fight against climate change.
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'You Need To Act Now': Meet 4 Girls Working To Save The Warming World

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'You Need To Act Now': Meet 4 Girls Working To Save The Warming World

'You Need To Act Now': Meet 4 Girls Working To Save The Warming World

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NOEL KING, HOST:

A teenage girl, Greta Thunberg, has become the most famous face of the global climate strike movement. She's helped rally other young people around the world, which raises the question, what do their parents think about all this? NPR's Anya Kamenetz talked to three teenage climate activists and their moms to find out.

ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: When she was just 13, Xiye Bastida came to New York City from Mexico with her family. She helped spearhead the city's school strike for climate last March. Now, at 17, she's given up model United Nations to lobby at the real one in Manhattan.

XIYE BASTIDA: I am more nervous at model U.N. than the actual U.N. (laughter). It's really - like, kids are crazy competitive. I'm not trying to be part of that.

KAMENETZ: Teenagers like Bastida are in the vanguard of concern about climate change. In a recent poll in The Washington Post, 7 in 10 teenagers said climate change will harm their generation, showing more concern than older folks. And 1 in 4 teens told pollsters they've personally taken some action on the climate. The young activists I talked to were all raised to be green.

BASTIDA: My parents - my mom and my dad - always taught me what it was to take care of the Earth.

KAMENETZ: Xiye's mother, Geraldine Patrick Encina, says the whole family practices the traditional ways of Xiye's dad. He's a member of the Otomi Toltec Nation of central Mexico.

GERALDINE PATRICK ENCINA: We will do at least one ceremony, you know, to the waters or to the land frequently, maybe once a week ideally, otherwise as regularly as we can.

CHERRI FOYTLIN: Some families, they go to baseball games.

KAMENETZ: That's Cherri Foytlin, a direct action activist and mother of six from Louisiana.

C FOYTLIN: Well, it's always been a family function for us to go to marches or to go to meetings or to meet with the community and learn how to organize the community.

KAMENETZ: Recently, Foytlin's 16-year-old daughter, Jayden, joined with 20 other young people in suing the federal government for violating their right to a livable planet. The lawsuit was just dismissed by a federal court. But Jayden says she bonded with her fellow plaintiffs, who came from all over the country.

JAYDEN FOYTLIN: We all share - like, one thing in common is that we really care about where we're from and our community and how we are going to continue to live in this life.

KAMENETZ: For her part, her mom Cherri says Jayden's life can't be all protesting and giving speeches.

C FOYTLIN: She giggles and laughs and goofs around and has little boyfriend and...

(LAUGHTER)

C FOYTLIN: ...All those things that 16-year-olds do. The only difference is her mind and her heart is so passionate about this issue and about protecting life.

KAMENETZ: Milou Albrecht grew up going to protests, too, in Australia.

MILOU ALBRECHT: The organizers were always trying to make it as fun as possible so that everyone would come.

KAMENETZ: Milou is a founder of the country's School Strike 4 Climate. Her mom, Susie Burke, is a climate psychologist who studies how parents can help children cope in a changing world. And she says that for teenagers, getting involved with a cause they care about...

SUSIE BURKE: Fits beautifully with their skills and qualities that we know are great for children to develop in order for them to thrive as adults.

KAMENETZ: Like collaboration, communication, leadership and empathy, and says Burke...

BURKE: It's great to take action on things that are worrying you because action is one of the best antidotes to despair and helpless and hopelessness.

KAMENETZ: That said, Burke advises other parents that you can't push your children into activism. In fact, all three of the teenage leaders I spoke to have siblings who aren't quite as invested in the cause as they are. It turns out supporting a teenage activist isn't all that different from parenting any other teen. Milou Albrecht says her parents are great at listening and supporting.

MILOU: But also kind of stepping back and let me do my thing.

KAMENETZ: And Xiye Bastida says her family helps her keep everything in perspective.

BASTIDA: I think it's very important that my parents are there to support me and remind me, you know, you cannot attempt to fix the world if you don't fix your room.

KAMENETZ: Anya Kamenetz, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL LAURANCE'S "DECEMBER IN NEW YORK")

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