Follow Up on a Featured Leading Learner

Hopefully, you’ve read our previous article on Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced Shu-TEZ-caht) Martinez, the incredibly accomplished 16-year-old from Boulder, Colorado. This exceptional young man is leading a lawsuit with 21 other youths against the American government for infringing upon the Constitutional right to a healthy atmosphere. We were so inspired by Xiuhtezcatl and his mission that we decided to follow up and see the progress of his movement.


In February, he led an anti-fracking rally on the steps of the State Capitol the day before his lawsuit was heard at the Colorado Court of Appeals. Fortunately, Xiuhtezcatl’s dedication and passion were rewarded as three judges handed down a 2-1 decision in favor of Xiuhtezcatl and his peers. The ruling calls for the state’s oil and gas conservation commission to consider the petition from Xiuhtezcatl’s group and stop issuing permits for new sites until an independent party proves fracking can be done without harming public health or environment. The group will restate its case to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and ask for more regulations to be put in place until further studies have been done.


Xiuhtezcatl has been fighting fracking in Colorado since the age of 11. One of the top fracking experts in the country trained him on speaking about the issue. He helped close down a country commissioners meeting and aided in the success of a ban on fracking in Boulder as well as a five-year moratorium on fracking in Boulder County. He received the 2015 Peace First Prize, the 2015 Nickelodeon Halo Award, 2016 Captain Planet Award, and the 2016 Children’s Climate Prize in Sweden.


He has spoken in front of the United Nations five times (as well as numerous other venues) and is the youngest guest ever featured on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher. Xiuhtezcatl was selected by President Obama to be part of the Presidential Youth council and was awarded the Change Maker of the Year Award by President Obama. Furthermore, he helped to end the use of pesticides in Boulder City Parks and helped Boulder introduce a fee on plastic bags. He even helped to end a 20-year contract with Xcel Energy so that the city of Boulder could make renewable energy its main resource. Essentially, he has accomplished more in his short 16 years than most people do in a lifetime.


In addition to his speaking tours and legal movements, Xiuhtezcatl uses music to educate people about his cause. The rap and hip hop songs he writes and performs express his feelings on hard hitting issues such as environmentalism and the oppression of indigenous people. He performed at Standing Rock for a #NoDAPL benefit concert and at the Native Nations March on Washington. He’s also performed with artists such as Talib Kweli and Jurassic 5 and has even collaborated with Raury and Jaden Smith on a “movement song, a revolutionary track.” When chosen as one of seven ambassadors for the Kenzo xH&M campaign back in October of 2016, he developed a friendship with Grammy-winner Chance the Rapper. Chance is a Chicago-based artist who, like Xiuhtezcatl, writes about social issues.
Xiuhtezcatl is living proof that youth activism can be effective and is more than Facebook posts and marches. He hopes that more young people will get involved and change the face of these movements. If you’d like to learn more about Xiuhtezcatl’s mission or get involved yourself, visit the page of Earth Guardians, the environmental awareness organization founded by Xiuhtezcatl’s mother Tamara Roske and for which Xiuhtezcatl is the Youth Director.


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