See powerful portraits of New York City’s young climate activists
Photographer Anna Betts celebrates the leaders at the forefront of fighting climate change.
Photos by Anna Betts.
Over the past two years, a record number of young people around the world have united in the fight against climate change. From organizing protests to drafting legislation, teens like Greta Thurnberg and Xiye Bastida have become leaders in the dire effort to save the Earth from the impending climate crisis. Photographer and New York University student Anna Betts set out to highlight these young leaders through her senior thesis project titled “Love & Rage: The New Faces of Climate Activism.”
“I went to the climate strike in September and I met a bunch of these young people,” Betts told i-D. “I got really inspired.”
Following the history-making protest, the 21-year-old joined weekly meetings for the New York chapters of XR (Extinction Rebellion) Youth and Fridays for Future, two youth-lead global organizations that have been pivotal in bringing attention to the climate crisis. To highlight the importance of the climate justice movement and its young leaders, Betts put together an activist school yearbook, shooting their portraits and talking to them about their concerns and hopes for the future.
“I wanted to have this intergenerational conversation,” Betts says. “I hope that people see that if a 9-year-old can do it, so can you.”
The project features the portraits of around 40 New York-based activists. Betts ultimately hopes her work will give these brave leaders a larger platform and inspire those who view it to take action. “I hope to show what’s possible — even the tiniest things in life can make a change.”
Check out some of the portraits and activist statements below.
"I first got involved in the climate change movement at a coalition meeting of Fridays for Future NYC and XR Youth. I became my high school representative with Sen. Oglesby, and we led our school to the march on September 20. After that, I got more directly involved with XR Youth! I'm dedicated to saving the planet and its people."
"My mom and I started helping resettled refugees in New York City when I was six. My mom explained what climate refugees were and about why there are going to be so many more in the future because of climate change and because no one's doing anything. I was really upset. I've been a climate change activist since then because a lot of refugees are just little kids like me and they don't have a home anymore. I'm fighting for all of our futures. Like Greta says, I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Kids know it's on fire. Kids are just trying to get the world to listen and do something."
"My name is Darius Korin and I am a 15-year-old climate justice activist from Brooklyn, New York. I got involved in this movement after my first strike of March 2019 and to hold politicians accountable for their inaction towards the climate crisis. I now organize climate strikes like September 20 with Friday's For Future NYC. I am also involved with Extinction Rebellion Youth NYC. Act with urgency this is a climate emergency."
"I got involved with the climate justice movement through the Fridays for Future movement. Since attending my first strike around two years ago, I've made really amazing friendships and experienced powerful moments. I also co-own the activist account @brown.politics so social justice was already a major part of my life."
"I got involved with climate justice advocacy through organizing at my school and at my church for the September 20 strike. Through the preparations for the 20th, I met many young people who were making a change in the climate advocacy movement and it made me realize that I could help make a change too. The climate crisis intersects with all of the issues in our world and I'm going to fight for climate justice with XR youth because it affects all of us."
"I got involved in the climate change movement when I heard that coral reefs were dying. I had watched a documentary about coral bleaching and how humans were the reason. I did some more research and found out that we have until 2030 to reverse the changes of climate change or we will all die by 2050. When I first heard this I was in disbelief; because wouldn't I know about this? Wouldn't it be treated as an emergency? These are the first questions I asked myself, then I heard about Greta Thunberg and how our government was failing us and that's when I decided to take a stand with Fridays for Future. I've attended countless rallies, protests, strikes, and other direct action so that not only my future, but all of these futures of the children around the world can be saved as well as future generations. I'm only 15 years old, and already I have been burdened with crisis my government refuses to acknowledge."
"My name is Margot, I am 14 years old. I started striking for the climate in March, and have struck many Fridays since. I have been involved in the organization of the September 20 strike and now am an organizer for the outreach committee of XR youth. I am striking because the future generations to come depends on our single generation."
"I'm Maud, I'm fourteen and I got involved with the climate movement after the March 15 strike last year. For me, it showed that climate activism in everyday kids like me and my friends is attainable and we can make a difference through it, even if it's just in our small circle of friends and acquaintances."
"I got involved in the climate movement after going to a local conference in New York City in the spring of 2018. Over time, I got more and more involved because I realized how much of a humans rights issue the climate crisis is. Minorities are being disproportionately affected by climate change -- for example, waste dumps for factories are purposely placed in low-income neighborhoods, completely polluting the area. There is youth on the frontlines of the climate crisis who are fighting for their lives, but the media does not hear their voices. As an activist, I stand in solidarity with these people and work to uplift their voice and join their fight."
"This summer, a friend of mine invited me to an open planning meeting for the September 20 strike. It was already a cause I believed in, so I went. And I ended up getting much more involved than I originally expected. The more I worked the more passionate I became about climate justice."
"I've been in social justice advocacy for a lot of my life, but when Extinction Rebellion launched out of the UK last November, it was the first time that I ever saw climate change expressed with any real sense of urgency. I believe that youth have a distinct role in the climate movement and in April, I helped launch XR Youth US out of San Francisco. Since then we have expanded to 50+ locations across the country. I now work as one of the national coordinators as well as being a part of our local group and on the team that plans our global strikes."
"I got involved in climate activism because I saw the world around me changing while governments did nothing but perpetuate these changes. I was raised in an Otomi indigenous culture, which means that the way in which I live my life is with the Earth, and not from the Earth. Indigenous peoples cosmology is that you have to take care of the Earth and give back because the Earth gives so much to us. When I saw that this balance was not being respected is when I started speaking up. My hometown in Mexico went through drought and flood and we couldn't do anything about it. When I moved to New York I saw what hurricane Sandy had done to Long Island. I realized this was global, and that it affected marginalized communities more aggressively. However, it wasn't enough to go lobby our politicians, or sign petitions, we had to figure out a way to change the way in which we were talking about the climate crisis. It is not something that is decades away, it is here. It is not something that will be solved solely with innovation and technology, you need knowledge and spirit. It is not something that will be solved through talks and signatures, it needs morality, empathy, reconnection, and collaboration. If being a climate activist means that I care for the Earth and i will speak up to protect it, then I have always been an activist, and everyone should be too."