NowThis NEXT 2021: Xiye Bastida, “Climate Girl”
Because of her and her family’s personal experiences as climate migrants, Bastida’s commitment to the climate movement goes hand in hand with her activism related to the protection of indigenous and immigrant communities’ rights.
This week, NowThis NEXT and Vital Voices Global Partnership are celebrating the most inspiring young changemakers of our time. These women are problem-solvers who bring new ideas, perspectives, and energy in addressing the most pressing issues in the world. Next up is Vital Voices honoree and indigenous rights and climate activist Xiye Bastida.
Xiye Bastida is a 19-year-old Mexican-Chilean climate justice activist and University of Pennsylvania undergraduate student. As a member of the Mexican Otomi-Toltec nation, she has experienced firsthand the devastating impact of the climate crisis. In 2015, after back-to-back years of drought followed by intense floods from a polluted river, Bastida and her family were displaced from their hometown of San Pedro Tultepec in Mexico. At thirteen years old, Bastida and her family relocated to New York City in hopes of a better life.
Upon arriving in New York City, Bastida and her family found themselves living amongst the destruction left by Superstorm Sandy years earlier. Bastida felt as though she could not escape the consequences of the climate crisis.
Bastida decided to take action. She first got involved with the environment club at her school, and her passion for the climate movement quickly grew. Bastida emerged as one of the leading climate activists of Gen Z when she took on the role as a leader in the Fridays for Future climate strike movement in New York City. At the March 2019 climate strike, Bastida trained and led 600 students from her school in peaceful protest and supported the mobilization of youth climate activism. Since then, she has led strikes with over 300,000 students. Bastida aims to inspire others to take action with her, by leading by example, and by sharing the responsibility to call for action. By striking with her peers and directing a youth-led movement, Bastida hopes to wake the world up to the urgency of the climate crisis.
Bastida’s activism and leadership runs in her blood. Both her grandparents and parents were youth climate activists who fought to protect their sacred indigenous land in Mexico. Bastida is motivated by her father’s mottos: “leave everything better than you found it” and “live with the Earth, rather than from it.” Bastida believes that this wisdom that she has learned from generations of elders has raised her with a unique sense of sensitivity about the environment and her surrounding ecosystem.
Because of her and her family’s personal experiences as climate migrants, Bastida’s commitment to the climate movement goes hand in hand with her activism related to the protection of indigenous and immigrant communities’ rights. Bastida says the climate crisis is due in part to the Global North, and particularly on those who perpetuate and uphold “the harmful systems of colonialism, oppression, capitalism and market-orientated greenwashed solutions.”
Through her work, Bastida has reinforced that climate justice is social justice. She believes that the world must step up to protect the Global South — and specifically, Black, brown, and indigenous communities — from living with the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
At the local level, her activism geared toward protecting these populations in New York has come in the form of town halls and rallies pushing for legislative change in her city and state. On a more global level, she has called on world leaders to take action. She addressed the United Nations in 2018 at the United Nations World Urban Forum. There, Bastida demanded a seat at the table to reinforce that inaction in the face of climate change has gone on for far too long.
In her address, Bastida emphasized that the consequences of climate change will be far too severe for future generations to handle, and the transition to renewable energy sources must happen now to end carbon emissions (by 2030, not 2050) and to end investments in and new infrastructures (i.e. pipelines) for fossil fuels. Most recently, Bastida spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Leaders Climate Summit in the spring of 2021. In her speech, she also acknowledged the immense responsibility that she felt to represent those who have been displaced as a result of the climate crisis, and to confront the fossil fuel industry for causing this migration and climate disaster.
When she isn’t leading a protest through New York City or discussing climate change with heads of state, Bastida is busy working for a nonprofit that she co-founded in April of 2020, Re-Earth Initiative. Her organization aims to “reimagine the future, reconnect with the planet, and redefine collaboration.” With the Re-Earth Initiative, Bastida leads global digital protests and helps people understand what actions they can take — on an individual and systemic level — to address the climate crisis and participate in their own way.
Bastida believes in education and literacy on the climate crisis that is non-Eurocentric, intersectional, and inclusive of climate justice, environmental racism, green careers, and sustainable living. She hopes to uplift “the voices of those who have been historically marginalized” and make the climate movement accessible to all. In 2020, her story was featured in the book Vital Voices: 100 Women Using Their Power to Empower.
For these reasons, Bastida has become known as the “climate girl” in high school and on the University of Pennsylvania campus. There, she has woven her “climate activism [into] her college experience.” It is clear that activism has been a way of life for Bastida for the past six years. Her commitment to preventing future generations from living within the current systems of exploitation, violence and injustice — amplified by climate change — is unwavering.
This dedication is best summarized by Bastida’s favorite saying:
“We don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.
NowThis is honored to partner with Vital Voices to make this incredible celebration happen. To learn more about Vital Voices, the impact they are having on women leaders now, and how YOU can get involved, visit vitalvoices.org or @vitalvoices on social.