Indigenous Rapper on Climate Activism and Intersectionality

Indigenous activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is one of the young people suing the U.S. over inaction on the climate crisis. Here, he explains why communities of color are key to the climate conversation.

Humanity and life on Earth are being fundamentally changed

Indigenous climate activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has been advocating for the environment since he was 6. Martinez is 1 of 21 young people who filed a 2015 lawsuit against the federal government for its inaction on climate change. The Obama and Trump administrations both tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. It now awaits a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether it can go to trial.

“The U.S. government has known about the climate crisis, has known about the contribution the fossil fuel industry has for over 50 years and has failed not just to adequately act on our behalf, but has directly gone forth to perpetuate this crisis by subsidizing the fossil fuel industry by opening up opening up federal lands for exploitation and extraction. My generation is going to be the most affected and we are we are claiming that the actions taken by the government are in direct violation of our constitutional rights. This is us experiencing the loss of our homes and our communities due to permafrost melt in Alaska, or due to sea level rise in Florida, or due to the wildfires that I've experienced in my backyard in Colorado. This isn't just about like polar bears and sea level rise. This is about humanity and life on Earth being fundamentally changed forever. And that is what we are up against. That's why this is a crisis. That's why this is an emergency. There's so many things you can do in your own homes — like not let the water run. Young people are standing up all over the planet because we see climate change as a human rights issue,” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez tells Brut.

As the youth director of Earth Guardians, Martinez trains young people from around the world to lead climate movements. He’s also launched NOW, a subscription service for people who want to fund reforestation — with the goal of planting a trillion trees in 10 years. Martinez says it’s vital that the environmental movement include the voices of indigenous peoples and communities of color.