We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet

“We see that a world in crisis offers us an opportunity to build a more just one in its place. . . . The time has come for us to put aside everything that divides us and rise together like the oceans to turn the tides.”

In We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet, young Indigenous US activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez weaves together his story of becoming a youth climate activist with discussion of his Indigenous roots, his engagement with music, and his advice for others to help create positive change. 

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez uses an engaging voice to tell the story of his involvement with activism from the age of six, when he spoke at his first climate change rally. “I made the decision to speak because I saw it as an opportunity to hold adults accountable for the current state of our environment.” He embraces his origin as Mexica (also known as Aztec) and writes about the value of Indigenous environmental practices to “help us to strike a balance between growth and development and the health of our planet.” He talks about finding his voice alongside family, friends, and allies in undertaking local and national activism toward environmental justice. In particular, he grounds much of his early activism in his involvement with Earth Guardians, a youth-focused environmental organization where he served as youth director while he was a teen. He also talks about his involvement since 2015 in the legal case Juliana versus United States (supported by Our Children’s Trust), in which he and 20 other young people are suing the US federal government “to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate on behalf of present and future generations.” And he underscores how his activism includes his creative work as a hip-hop artist, since music is “a strong tool to understand oppression and combat it.” His conversations with other climate activists, including adults, are included as transcripts in the book and help to convey a sense of how Martinez connects with other people.

In We Rise, Martinez devotes chapters to the importance of activism regarding food systems, fracking, and fossil fuels, and to the efforts of water protectors and other Indigenous environmental activists. He makes a clear and convincing case that a global movement for climate action must include as many people as possible “regardless of age, race, or religion” and that Indigenous-led climate action and diverse movements will enable more lasting and just solutions. Throughout the book, he emphasizes the interconnectedness of struggles for justice. The book concludes with a chapter on “A Rising Generation” where Martinez tries to inspire more young people to join “growing movements to support equality for all”: “Everything I’m trying to do is based around inspiring more youth to step up as leaders in solving the crisis we’re facing.” 

©2022 ClimateLit (Rachel Conrad)

Publisher: Rodale, 2017

Pages: 256

ISBN: 978-1-63565-067-9

Audience: Rebels (14-older)

Format: Youth-Authored

Topics: Activism, Climate Change, Energy Justice, Environmental Injustice, Environmental Justice, Food, Fossil Fuels, Fracking, Indigenous Environmental Practices, Indigenous-led Climate Action, Solutions, Water Protectors, Youth Climate Activism