A conversation with Xiye Bastida, a Mexican-Chilean climate activist who embraces her Otomi indigenous belief that if you take care of the Earth, it will take care of you. Xiye is one of her generation’s loudest voices, and one of the lead organizers of Re-Earth Initiative, a youth organization to make the climate movement accessible to all.
We had the chance to chat with Xiye about her vision for a better future.
WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT LEAVING BEHIND A BETTER PLANET, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
We have to think about how everything that we do is preparing the world and setting up the world for the future generations. As my grandma told me: “leave everything better than you found it.” And that’s something that can be applied to anything, you know, to a room when you visit someone’s house, but that also applies to our world.
My dad also taught me that when we think about our actions, we have to think about the past seven generations to learn from their wisdom and the future seven generations to think about their stability. Along with that, I am always reminded about a very important indigenous saying, which is, we don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
AS ONE OF THE LEAD ORGANIZERS OF THE FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE MOVEMENT, WHAT ROLE DO PROTESTS PLAY IN YOUR LIFE?
At the beginning, there was a big misconception that Fridays For Future movement was distracting kids from school because we were essentially skipping school to attend them. And the truth is we are protesting the fossil fuel industry, we’re protesting the systems that are destroying our planet. And when we actually got together with teachers and the school board to ask them to give us that day for free, on September 20, of 2019, which was one of our biggest protests, there was a shift in mindset. It’s not like we don’t want to learn, we are actually thinking about something bigger, and this is something that requires all of us.
I think that it’s so important for our generation because we tried everything else, we tried a lot of different ways before protesting. And every time, people would say “we hear you,” but they wouldn’t actually do anything, nothing would change. So there had to be a shift in how we approached activism.
So, when we disrupted the only thing that we’re supposed to do as kids, going to school, that’s when we got the world’s attention. That’s when we got our parents’ attention, our teachers’ attention, the government’s attention. And I think that’s when the movement grew exponentially.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN ACTIVISM?
I want this movement to be about joy, I want this movement to be about fighting for the joy of our children. We are fighting for the joy of future generations, we’re fighting for the joy of communities. And so, I think that the goal is to make the climate movement a community in a way that reflects the community that we want to see in the world.
My goal is to make it regenerative and not exhausting. I don’t want activism burnout to exist. The work itself needs to be sustainable. People within these organizations need to take care of each other, with time for breaks, with time for celebration. All of this is important, and if we’re not having fun while saving the world, we’re never going to get there; it needs to be sustainable because we need to be here for the long run.
WHAT CAN YOUR GENERATION DO TO CREATE CHANGE?
Gen Z has been labeled as not only a generation of technology, but also as a generation who was ignorant about the things that were going on around the world. And as we grew older, as we started learning more things in school, and also learning things through social media, we saw that there was a disconnect between what justice means and what was actually happening.
So we turned everything around and decided not only to act, but also use social media and different types of technology to communicate with each other to organize protests, to call people to action, to spread information, to educate each other through our own channels. And that has had a global impact that has reached millions of people around the world and has activated youth activists everywhere.
WHAT DOES CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION MEAN TO YOU?
Be intentional about what you consume. Be intentional about what you need. Ask yourself, what do I need? What don’t I need? And how you can buy things that are a better quality, because they will last longer.
Another point that I wanted to bring up is that right now we are a throwaway culture, a culture that likes to buy things and throw away things. But we have to think about what throwing something away means. You never truly throw something away, it just gets moved out of your view, it just gets moved out of where you can see it. And that’s why we have a waste problem in the United States and around the world. Most of our waste is sent to poor communities in Southeast Asian countries, which ends up polluting their land and harming their health.
We’re not actually dealing with the problem. And the problem not only comes from supply but also demand, because our choices as consumers have a huge impact on what companies put out. So, I just think that once you change your mentality, once you change your way of looking at life, once you change your habits, everything else will come effortlessly, and it is actually going to be easy for you to choose good things and choose things that last and choose things that matter.
YOUR TRUCKER JACKET IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW FASHION CAN ALSO PLAY A ROLE IN SELF-EXPRESSION – HOW DOES THIS PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE?
I have this jacket that I’ve had for so long, and it shows me the importance of customizing your stuff to make it yours and make it important. I love the jacket so much, because I feel like everything that it says and all the symbols that it has, I could put it on a poster and walk with that when I’m protesting.
Clothing is not only about how a certain piece might look. I think clothing is also an important vehicle of self expression. When you can put something on your jacket that says what you stand for, it becomes personal. You can suddenly communicate through them to the world.
HOW CAN OTHERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD?
From my perspective, I feel like we tell people that they should change a lot, but at the same time, I feel like what people should advocate for is not only change within themselves, but also change from the places that they consume from. The conversation goes both ways. Not only do we have to be conscious about our consumption, but demand that from the companies that we consume from. Because at the end of the day, consumers are the one who will be buying, who will be using, who will be making things trendy.
“Not only do we have to be conscious about our consumption, but demand that from the companies that we consume from.”
We have the power. And we not only have the power of setting trends or the power of what gets bought, but we have the power of questioning how things are made. And I think that’s really important because we can demand better, we should demand better, we must demand better and companies are just waiting for that push, because if it’s not only going to come from legislation, it has to come from consumers.