There is nothing usual about Xiuhtezcatl Martinez — not even his name.
Martinez describes himself as an "indigenous, environmental, eco hip-hop artist and activist," and at 14 years old, he's already devoted much of his life to tackling climate change.
Despite repeated pleas from millions of citizens across the world and numerous attempts at international agreements to cap carbon emissions, not much headway has been made in the way of mitigating climate change's impact, which makes the activism of young people like Martinez all the more crucial.
And, in honor of Earth Day, filmmaker and human rights activist Vanessa Black made Kid Warrior: The Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Story, a short movie on this young hero.
"I like taking abstract headlines that seem so impersonal and so unrelatable and putting a human face to them, offering a new perspective on the issue," Black told Mic.
During the three days she spent filming with Martinez, Black asked him what we could be doing to save the planet. "His answer was amazing," Black said. "He said, 'I'm not even into that question. You know exactly where to go to find that information if you don't know it already. It's about shifting human consciousness.'"
Martinez echoed this sentiment when he spoke with Mic about his activism: "It's about tackling the roots of the problem. Climate change isn't the issue, the issue is the mindset of society."
From as early as 6 years old, Martinez felt strongly about taking care of the Earth, in part due to his indigenous cultural upbringing: "I thought this world that was mine, what's it going to look like for our generation, how are we gonna leave it for future generations? We can't wait for someone else to do it, we have to do something now," he said.
Martinez passionately believes tackling this mammoth issue is about more than showing up to rallies, it's about incorporating a concern for the planet into one's everyday existence.
"Getting young people engaged is really, really key [because] we've got to show them that taking action doesn't mean protesting. It's about finding their passion, what inspires them — whether it's skateboarding or music — and getting them to use that in creative ways to take a stand on these important issues."
This is a serious problem, which requires serious action. Despite what billion-dollar conservative think tanks and lobbyists would have you believe, climate change is real. NASA created a prediction — an aggregate off 15 climate change models — of how much warmer the planet is going to get over the next century, and it doesn't look promising.
The New Climate Economy's 2014 report states we can expect more frequent extreme weather events, which devastate economies and peoples. But the report also makes clear these extreme events are not the only thing to worry about — the small changes can be devastating too:
"Existing climate variability is already a major source of poverty and insecurity among the rural poor. For them even small increments to risk in the form of delayed rain, higher temperatures, slightly more intense or protracted drought can mean disaster."
All is not lost. If countries start taking this issue seriously, and start taking action now, we can still reduce the extent to which climate change will be a problem.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2014 report found reducing carbon emissions by 40% to 70% in the next 35 years should be the goal. And while this may sound like a lot, following these guidelines only means a marginal hit to economic growth. This seems more than worth it in exchange for getting climate change under control, particularly when you factor in the economic devastation it will cause if we continue to do nothing.
Martinez is right: It's not the earth that needs saving — it's humanity that needs to be saved from itself.
Correction: April 22, 2015