5 American Girl Bosses Making Waves and Saving the Environment
Young women have become some of the most influential figures in the climate conversation. In the United States, where climate skepticism runs red-hot, their voices have gained mainstream attention like never before. Female activists are worried about their future, maddened by the lack of decisive action, and many are unable to do the one thing that may move the needle: vote. But, instead of sitting back and relying on politicians to rewrite the script, these climate crusaders are taking to the streets and altering the course of public policy and corporate responsibility themselves.
Check out these young leaders below to see how they’re demanding climate action.
1. Haven Coleman, 12
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Position: Cofounder and Codirector of U.S. Youth Climate Strike
Haven Coleman may be twelve, but she’s a force to be reckoned with. A few years ago, she was learning about ancient Amazonian trade in her social studies class, when the word deforestation popped into the dialogue. As she learned more about the topic, she came to realize that this horrible practice was endangering one of her favorite animals – the sloth.
It didn’t take Haven much time before she realized that sloths weren’t the only thing in the line of fire. She began to see entire ecosystems and communities being destroyed by something even bigger than deforestation – climate change.
Haven quickly got up to speed on all things climate change and began to mobilize. Following in Greta Thunberg’s footsteps, she, along with 16-year-old Isra Hirsi and 13-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor, brought climate strikes to the United States. They founded U.S. Youth Climate Strike, a movement that encourages thousands of young activists and students across the country to skip school and continue to speak truth to power.
2. Quannah Chasing Horse, 17
Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska
Position: Member of the Gwich'in Youth Council
“A lot of our communities and villages on the coast, because of erosion, are literally falling apart,” Chasing Horse said. “Communities are being evacuated from their own homes and ancestral lands because of climate change.”
Alaskan native Quannah Chasing Horse is a big-time advocate for environmental and indigenous rights. She recently helped win protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the Trump administration had opened to oil drilling.
“Being out there on the land is what connects us to each other. It is healing for us is when we all go out together on the land. It’s what grounds us and connects us, knowing that generations of our ancestors have walked across those lands.”
3. Alexandria Villaseñor, 14
Hometown: New York, New York
Position: Founder of Earth Uprising
In 2017, Villaseñor’s family vacation to California happened to coincide with the deadliest fire in California history: The Camp Fire. The smoky air exacerbated her asthma to the point where she was forced to retreat back to New York early. When she got back, she began to research wildfires on a deeper level. She quickly came to understand how fires were inextricably linked with climate change.
Villaseñor was inspired by Greta Thunberg to do something to prevent future climate-related disasters. She joined Fridays for Future, an initiative that encourages kids to skip school and protest. Villasñor now sits outside the U.N. headquarters every Friday, rain or shine, frequently holding a cardboard sign, which reads “SCHOOL STRIKE 4 CLIMATE” and “COP24 FAILED US.” To take her commitment a step further, and unionize other young activists, Villaseñor founded Earth Uprising - a worldwide community of like-minded youth activists.
4. Penny Tovar, 23
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Position: Beauty Youtuber
Beauty influencer and Youtuber, Penny Tovar, is switching up her regular programming. After watching a video by Lauren Singer, she was shocked by how much trash a single human-being produces. She began to rethink her daily habits - from food packaging to plastic bottles - and promote more sustainable habits to her subscribers. She’s now an advocate for vegan and cruelty-free beauty products. She also works alongside beauty-recycling programs, who take your empty beauty containers, and recycle them for you.
5. Tabatha Knudson, 18
Hometown: Honolulu, Oahu
Position: Co-President of Surfrider Manoa Club at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Growing up in Hawaii, water was a major part of Tabatha Knudson’s life. As she grew older, she became aware of environmental stressors facing her beloved ecosystem. According to her, she had one teacher who encouraged her to act and fight for clean water. And so she did. She joined her local high school Surfrider Foundation chapter, where she learned to advocate for state and local climate initiatives, and how to plan advocacy events.
In 2018, as a freshman in college, Knudson became an events coordinator for Surfrider’s student chapter at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. There, she hosted meetings where she educated community leaders and professors on the reality of climate change, and pertinent stressors in their community, such as single-use plastics.
Nowadays, as the club’s co-president, Knudson spearheaded a campaign to ban plastic straws on her college campus. She also rallied support for a bill known as Bill 40, which will phase out single-use plastics city-wide in Honolulu and works actively to inspire other students to become champions of sustainability.
The Oxygen Project created an interactive map where you can explore the far-corners of the world through the lens of climate change. Visit www.theoxygenproject.com/map to learn more.