Xiye

Getting stuff done with

Xiye

Meet Xiye Bastida, climate activist and founder of the Re-Earth Initiative, an international youth-led nonprofit.

Ref: Tell us about your journey.

Xiye: My name is Xiye Bastida and I am a climate justice activist. I’ve always said that my journey started with my parents–they met at the first Earth Summit in 1992. My dad was representing Mexico and my mom Chile. To have parents who, from their early twenties, were already educated about the climate crisis and its solutions meant that I was raised very aware of the disrespect that we were inflicting on Mother Earth. Another important aspect of my upbringing is that my dad is Otomi, which is an Indigenous group in Mexico. He taught me that we must see our relationship with Mother Earth as reciprocal–Mother Earth gives everything we need to live; all that it asks is that we protect it. From the onset of this Indigenous philosophy, I was really aware and critical about what I saw in my own town: polluting factories, industries that would build on top of our wetlands, machines that sucked our water and took it to Mexico City, and the buyout of Indigenous land by private companies. When I was 13 years old my hometown suffered from flooding, which showed me that what my parents had been warning me about was already happening. That is when I decided that I had to get on a journey of environmental protection–and most importantly, demand comprehensive and equitable climate action from our leaders, companies, and institutions.



R: What inspires you?

X: What inspires me is past movements. I am often reminded of a quote that says “No movement has ever succeeded by thinking that it won’t.” This quote inspires me because it shows me that the most important things we have are drive and determination. I want to leave this world a better place for future generations, and I can’t afford to think that change is not possible. When I started organizing Climate Strikes in NYC, we started with 5,000 students in the streets. In just 6 months, we had grown to 300,000 people in NYC and 7.4 million across the world. The power that I see not only by feeling our footsteps through the streets of Wall Street, but by knowing that every single person present is doing their best for climate mitigation is what inspires me the most. I know all of us have in us to do better for present and future generations.



R: How did you first get interested in sustainability?

X: The first instance I remember of being interested in sustainability was when I was in kindergarten and I was given the role of water protector. I was supposed to make sure that all the faucets were turned off when kids washed their hands. This small role had a huge impact on me. Not only did it show me that I cared about saving water, but it also showed me that all of us can play a role in being part of the solution and making others aware of their impact. Every time I reminded someone to close the faucet I would tell them how important it was to save water–I think this is how we have the most impact, by talking to each other about solutions however small they might seem. These small steps actually change our mindset, and once our mindset is changed to be one withMother Earth, every action we take has a deeper moral dimension.



R: What cause or causes are important to you?

X: Right now, I want to make sure that ambition is raised at COP26 (2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference). It is sometimes disheartening to think that we have had climate conferences for the past three decades and that little has been done internationally to ensure a fossil fuel-free world. We now know the problem; we have to decrease our emissions by 50% by 2030, yet we are still burning coal and drilling for oil. I think that our strongest argument as youth is that the climate crisis is a generational injustice. Thus, it is the duty of world leaders to stop dependence on fossil fuels.



R: What’s something you’re excited about?

X: I am excited about strikes starting to be in person again! I think that nothing matches the energy of Global Climate Strike days. The strikes make people feel empowered and they also show stakeholders that we are serious about climate justice.

Ref: Tell us about your journey.

Xiye: My name is Xiye Bastida and I am a climate justice activist. I’ve always said that my journey started with my parents–they met at the first Earth Summit in 1992. My dad was representing Mexico and my mom Chile. To have parents who, from their early twenties, were already educated about the climate crisis and its solutions meant that I was raised very aware of the disrespect that we were inflicting on Mother Earth. Another important aspect of my upbringing is that my dad is Otomi, which is an Indigenous group in Mexico. He taught me that we must see our relationship with Mother Earth as reciprocal–Mother Earth gives everything we need to live; all that it asks is that we protect it. From the onset of this Indigenous philosophy, I was really aware and critical about what I saw in my own town: polluting factories, industries that would build on top of our wetlands, machines that sucked our water and took it to Mexico City, and the buyout of Indigenous land by private companies. When I was 13 years old my hometown suffered from flooding, which showed me that what my parents had been warning me about was already happening. That is when I decided that I had to get on a journey of environmental protection–and most importantly, demand comprehensive and equitable climate action from our leaders, companies, and institutions.



R: With a cause as broad as climate change, how do you focus your work?

X: I think this is a really good question because it’s important that all of us think about it at some point. From what I have learned, one person can’t do everything–I was organizing, doing panels, interviews, running the Environmental Club at my school, applying to college, studying for tests, and doing homework. There was a point when I realized I was overworking myself so much that I hadn’t made time for my friends and family or for myself. This showed me that I had to reflect about what my role in the movement was. I decided that I was best at communication, so now that I am a full-time student at university, I focus most of my time on climate communication efforts. I think all of us have to ask ourselves what we are good at and approach this through a climate lens.



R: Has your culture influenced your approach to environmental justice?

X: Yes, my Indigenous upbringing has taught me so many beautiful things about the relationship between culture and the environment. For example, in Otomi, the word for “skin” is the same as the word for the outer layer of the Earth. In this cosmology, it is understood that when we hurt the Earth, we are effectively hurting ourselves. The insight into how culture and tradition are so intertwined with one's immediate environment has shown me that every area is worthy of protection and every person worthy of dignity. We are in a time where rapid modernization is taking our culture away, but we must hang on to it, because that is where wisdom and knowledge come from.



R: What inspired you to start the Re-Earth Initiative?

X: When the pandemic started, we were suddenly unable to organize in-person actions. However, we had just gathered so much momentum–it was impossible to think about stopping our organizing efforts. Because of this, I decided to call upon my friends from around the world and invited them to start a campaign for Earth Day. In my experience, the media coverage of the youth climate movement had been mostly in European countries and the United States. There was no proportional representation of the diverse faces of the movement from around the world. Because of this, I wanted to make sure that the foundation of the Re-Earth Initiative was diversity and intersectionality. We had so much success in our Earth Day campaign that we decided to turn it into an organization that is still doing work today.



R: Climate change is an intersectional issue. What are some less obvious steps someone can take to undo the conditions that created this crisis?

X: I think that something that we always overlook is our power as constituents and voters. We must call our representatives and tell them about the issues we care about without assuming that someone else is doing it. Politicians keep track of what issues their constituents care about, and with enough pressure on climate justice they will have to come forward with climate platforms if they wish to be re-elected. At the end of the day, the climate crisis is a systemic issue that won’t be solved if everyone recycles, which is why it's so important to advocate for systemic change.



R: How do you balance your climate activism with being a college student?

X: It is honestly really hard to balance it all, but I do it by having a very organized calendar. I have to put in all of my classes, events, eating times, sleeping times, and even self-care time. In this way, I know I will accomplish whatever I want to get done on that day. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming to have two or three events a day for weeks, which is why I also take time away from organizing and activism to give space for my mind and body to regenerate. My dad taught me that in order to take care of the world, we must take care of ourselves first–and this is something that I take very seriously.



R: In your essay for ‘All We Can Save,’ you describe the idea of using storytelling as a tool. How do you do that in your work?

X: People are twenty times more likely to remember data when it is tied with storytelling. I think that for too long we have either expected people to know the science behind the climate crisis in order to act on it, or we have assumed that people are not experiencing the climate crisis already. The truth is that we reach more people when we tell stories–and we don’t need to know the science behind every single aspect of the climate crisis as long as we tie our stories to our demands. We are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis in the forms of pollution, flooding, wildfires, and stronger and unpredictable weather patterns. We don’t need to take a class on climate change to describe what we are seeing or to demand political change from our politicians.



R: What do you think is different about the way your generation approaches activism?

X: I think that Gen Z approaches activism in an intersectional way. We talk about how the climate crisis affects children, women, communities of color, and low-income countries. We recognize that all of our fights are interconnected and that we can’t achieve justice unless everyone is free from oppression. We not only support each other in this activism but we incorporate it into our own demands. I think that this way of seeing issues as interconnected is the only way we will be able to create and implement holistic solutions.



R: Has the “new normal” of virtual events and online activism made this work more or less accessible?

X: I think it has made the work a lot more accessible. The only downside is that by relying on social media and Zooms to make our voices heard, we fall victim to feeling that we are not really doing activism. Personally, I started feeling like a lot of my work wasn't as impactful as it could be if I was in Washington, at City Hall, or at the United Nations. On the other hand, we were able to focus a lot more on messaging, community support, making climate activism more inclusive, and translating all of our material to different languages. This shift showed us that we were missing a lot of important aspects in our activism and we have taken what we learned in the pandemic and will implement it, in person or online, moving forward.



R: What advice would you give to the next generation of climate activists?

X: My advice is to not let anyone tell you that change is not possible. We have seen it in history and we are seeing it now. We will fight and achieve a just and regenerative future for ourselves and our children.

R: Best place to eat in Philadelphia?

X: Lost Bread



R: Favorite thing about being in college?

X: Meeting new people after being in lockdown for so long



R: What are you reading right now?

X: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez



R: Who has more embarrassing fashion trends: Millennials or Gen Z?

X: Millennials for sure (I know because I remember thinking I had to dress like millennials when I was in high school and it was NOT a good decision).