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For Climate Justice, My 11-Year-Old Brother Stopped Speaking – and Started Being Heard

An 11-year-old indigenous activist has vowed not to speak until world leaders take effective action to halt climate change.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (Photo: courtesy of the Martinez family)

My name is Xiuhtezcatl (shoe-tez-cot) Martinez and I am a 14-year-old indigenous environmental activist. My 11-year-old brother, Itzcuauhtli (eat-squat-lee) Roske-Martinez, is on his 30th day of a talking strike that has gotten the attention of kids and adults from around the world including actor Mark Ruffalo. His talking strike is a desperate act to get the adults who care about their kids’ future to stand up and demand climate action now!

In Newark Liberty International Airport, a month ago after Itzcuauhtli and I spoke and performed at an environmental conference called “Where Do We Go From Here?” in upstate New York, Itzcuauhtli asked my mom and I, “Why should I go to school and learn a bunch of stuff if there is not going to be a world worth living in? The so-called ‘leaders’ are failing us because they are not taking action on climate change. Don’t they realize we are facing a crisis that threatens everyone’s future?” So, there in the Newark airport, he decided to quit speaking until world leaders take concrete action on climate change.

He hasn’t spoken a word for a month now, and he has been getting hundreds of thousands of hits on our Facebook page and his website, He also made a two-minute video called “Silent To Be Heard” to explain why he isn’t speaking. He is calling for a Silent Strike on December 10, and more than a thousand kids and adults have vowed to join him for a day or an hour of silence, and the numbers are growing.

Itzcuauhtli Martinez. (Photo: courtesy of the Martinez family)Itzcuauhtli Martinez. (Photo: courtesy of the Martinez family)Mark Ruffalo, whom we met in New York at an indigenous ceremony before the climate march in September, called my brother’s strike “brave and thoughtful,” but he was concerned about him. Mark wrote in a letter to my brother, “I also am made heartsick by your despair, little one. Your silence is a symbol of the silence that will come from doing nothing. You are silent for species that will go extinct and for the countless lives lost in super hurricanes, droughts, floods and ecosystem failure due to the folly and inaction of our leaders.”

My brother and I were raised in the Aztec tradition. We are also eco-hip-hop performers and youth directors of an international organization called Earth Guardians. HBO will be releasing a music video of our original song “Be the Change” on December 15 and highlighting our work in a climate change series called “Saving Our Tomorrow.” Plus, we are co-plaintiffs in a youth climate lawsuit; the Supreme Court will consider our case on December 5, 2014.

When we heard the news of the recent, historic US-China climate deal, Itzcuauhtli wrote that “the deal was not good enough,” explaining:

Scientists say we must cap carbon in the next year if we are going to avoid the worst of rising temperatures and climate disasters. If we wait another 15 years, which is when China said they would cap carbon, it’s going to be too late.

Itzcuauhtli says he won’t start speaking again until he sees a real commitment to climate action. He is asking people to join him in demanding that leaders:

1. Agree on and implement a Global Climate Recovery Plan to get us back to a safe zone of 350 ppm;

2. Massively reforest the planet to help absorb our excess carbon;

3. Support renewable energy solutions to replace the dirty fossil fuel industry.

In addition to everyone who is joining him on December 10 for his talking strike, several other youth have been committing to one to two hours of silence per day leading up to the day of the strike. A 12-year-old girl named Tusli Von wrote to Itzcuauhtli and has been silent for more than four days.

My brother’s talking strike created a lot of difficulty in his school; his teachers were frustrated that he wasn’t speaking. The school asked if my mom had considered home-schooling him and my mom took their advice. Itzcuauhtli’s last day of school was Friday, November 22.

My brother wrote on Facebook last week that this is the hardest thing he has ever done “and even though it is a bumpy road, I am committed to doing this for all the children of the world because our future is at stake! Though I have lost friends at school, I have made many new friends from all over the world who have signed up to join me! I don’t know where this road will take me, but I hope it inspires parents and adults to rise up to protect us. I hope it shows young people we have the power to change the world.”

Itzcuauhtli is asking you to visit his website to sign up to join in silence “even for an hour!”; wear a green ribbon; and share the message #climatesilencenow #ourfuturematters #earthguardians with the link to his video.

He is planning more actions leading up to the UN summit in Paris on December 15 and hopes that the silence of children and adults from around the world will be a megaphone for all of us who are calling for climate action now!

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