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.