Climate Hero: Xiye Bastida

Image credit: Courtesy of Ryan Lash, TED

Climate Hero: Xiye Bastida

Each week One Earth is proud to feature an environmental activist and hero from around the globe who is working to create a world where humanity and nature can coexist in harmony.

Xiye Bastida is no stranger to climate change. As a kid growing up in San Pedro Tultepec, a small town of approximately 10,000 outside Mexico City, the people in her town suffered extreme drought. Then one summer the rains came and wouldn’t stop, causing massive flooding. It was then when she experienced firsthand how climate change can disproportionately affect smaller communities. Eventually, she and her family had to flee to New York City to escape the flooding.

Born to environmentalist parents, Xiye, which means “soft rain”, is Indigenous Mexican on her father’s side and European Chilean on her mother’s and is part of the Otomi Indigenous group in Mexico. She grew up learning Indigenous philosophies with a main tenet being  'we all take care of the earth, because the earth takes care of us'. Her devotion to nature began with her father, who shared all of his wisdom with his daughter about the responsibility humans have to live in balance with nature and to ‘leave everything better than you found it.’ This ignited her passion for climate activism at such a young age.

Bastida’s leadership skills took flight at 15, after she moved to New York City and joined a high school environmental club. She helped steer club activities from watching movies about recycling plastic to writing politicians. Xiye started speaking publicly about climate justice and Indigenous rights, and mobilized 600 students from her school to participate in the first climate strike in March of 2019. 

Indigenous communities are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. They have the closest relationship with the environment and are often caught in between politics and economic marginalization which causes human rights violations, discrimination, and loss of resources. Protecting and upholding Indigenous land rights is vital to mitigating the climate crisis, as lands managed by Indigenous communities contain 80% of the world’s biodiversity, despite Indigenous peoples constituting less than 5% of the global population.

As a young climate activist, Bastida has chosen to put what is considered regular teen interests and activities to the side, and instead devote her time to learning about climate policy. For Bastida, being a climate activist means one has to be articulate, understand the science, and bring a unique perspective that stands out.

At 19, Bastida is one of the lead organizers of the Fridays For Future youth climate strike movement, organizes climate strikes, and speaks about climate justice issues in town halls. She sits on the administration committee of the People's Climate Movement, where she brings the voice of her generation that understands the climate crisis is getting worse everyday, but chooses hope and action over despair. Bastida is stubbornly optimistic that we will all find a way to come together to protect the Earth’s resources─for the mutual benefit of all. 

Being an environmentalist shouldn’t be exclusive. It should be something we are all working towards together. Bastida is the co-founder of the Re-Earth Initiative whose mission is to make the climate movement more accessible to all.

In 2018, Bastida was invited to the 9th United Nations World Urban Forum to speak about Indigenous cosmology and received the “Spirit of the UN” award.

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