Meet the Teenage Environmental Advocate Taking the Government to Court
Last year, a group of teens sued the U.S. government for failing to protect them—and the millions of other young people in America—from the very real effects of climate change. Victoria Barrett was one of them. Now (as in right this second), the high school activist is at the World Economic Forum at Davos alongside some of the most important change-makers in the world. There, she’ll be launching a new youth emancipation campaign called The Future Is Ours, which is making sure young people have a meaningful voice in negotiations around climate change, migration, and education. We asked her to write an essay about taking action...and filing lawsuits.
We can only ask ourselves how we became who we are so often. If we concentrate on the “How?”, we stop focusing on the “Why?” My name is Victoria Barrett and I am a 17-year-old high school student. I am youth activist. I am a first generation, Afro-Latina, Honduran, and queer American. My name is Victoria Barrett and I’m not sure exactly how I got to this point in my life, but I’m grateful to all the people and forces who have elevated my voice.
My whole generation exudes an energy that can only be described as iridescent. The light we bring to this planet seems to change in intensity when perceived from different angles. It is undeniable that we have been exposed to the best and the worst of humanity. What generation before us could’ve seen the amount of bloodshed and hate we have, and still persevered? This can be attributed to our endless optimism or our exhaustion with the state of the world—two opposing feelings that we’ve had to deal with our whole lives.
I couldn’t just sit back and not be a force for others. I’m unwilling to let the mistakes of the past carry over to my generation. I try my hardest to articulate the importance of young people. I’ve been working throughout my high school career to create a platform for myself, one where no matter what aspects of my identity are marginalized, I can speak with a message that connects with people. I’ve worked, campaigned, traveled, spoke, and fought for issues that I believed needed attention.
Everything I have done and all the opportunities I’ve been given stem from my unwillingness to succumb to any force that tries to constrict me. I went to COP21 in Paris and I saw world leaders decide whether my future was worth saving from the effects of climate change. I gave a keynote in Iceland to my peers about why we need to make sure that transitioning to renewable energy is a generational priority. I spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, looked into the eyes of dictators, monarchs, and presidents and told them that my generation needs to be at the forefront of Global Sustainable Development.
We must ensure that we are not characterized or held prisoner by the errors of our past, but that we are defined by our perseverance and bravery in the present. I fight for humanity in the footsteps of many.
By Victoria Barrett, 17