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This World Environment Day, Salute the Changemakers

By Virginia Terry

When the United Nations General Assembly first declared World Environment Day in 1972, the world's concerns primarily revolved around ozone layer depletion and toxic chemicals in our water and food systems. Climate change, at that time, was a topic confined to scientific and policy circles. However, in the decades that followed, awareness of climate change grew as the warnings became more alarming and the evidence of danger increasingly clear. Yet, despite this mounting evidence, little has changed in terms of policy or the world's energy mix. World leaders found themselves mired in inertia, while climate deniers deliberately muddled the growing evidence of impending doom.

But today, a new generation of young adults, born into the reality of climate change, refuses to accept the status quo. This is Generation Z, the teenagers and young adults who have firsthand experience of the devastating impacts of flooding, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and displacement. With remarkable moral clarity, they possess a deep understanding of what must be changed. They advocate for transforming education, respecting indigenous knowledge, and achieving an equitable sharing of power. They are at the forefront of local solutions that address global challenges.

On this World Environment Day, as climate change threatens lives, livelihoods, and the very systems that sustain us, Girl Rising proudly celebrates our Future Rising Fellows. These young leaders are driving change in their communities and demanding action from world leaders. In the words of Hilda Flavia Nakabuke from Uganda, "We are a generation of scared people. But we are very persistent. And very united."

Future Rising Fellow Hilda is one of Uganda's most prominent climate and environmental rights advocates. As the founder of Fridays for Future, Uganda, a youth-led climate action nonprofit, she has collaborated with renowned activist Greta Thunberg and contributed as an essayist to The Climate Book. Joining Hilda are numerous changemakers who call for immediate climate action, including Mercy, a Kenyan climate advocate and founder of Kuza Generation Initiative, a youth-led nonprofit addressing food scarcity caused by climate change. Tashi Lhazom, a climate advocate from Nepal, has taken the stage at the United Nations, highlighting the melting glaciers and frequent floods threatening lives in her country. Additionally, Lauren Ritchie, an environmental justice storyteller and founder of the EcoJustice Project, amplifies the voices of historically marginalized communities through her digital climate education platform.

At Girl Rising, we stand alongside Hilda, Mercy, Tashi, Lauren, and all our Fellows, providing leadership training, network building, professional speaking opportunities, and financial resources to amplify their solutions and activism. At the heart of the Fellowship is intensive storytelling training, ensuring their voices and visions reach far and wide, inspiring deep influence.

On this World Environment Day, we invite you to join us in spreading the word about our call for applications for the 2023 cohort of Future Rising. These young leaders possess an urgent clarity of purpose, and Girl Rising is committed to amplifying their voices and scaling their solutions. Together, let us take decisive action for a sustainable future. Learn more about Future Rising and join us in making a difference.

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