Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez (left), 11, and his older brother, Xiuhtezcatl, 14, are environmental activists. Itzcuauhtli is in his 38th day of a 'talking strike'.

11-year-old’s ‘Talking Strike’ for Climate Change Goes Viral


Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is a 14-year-old Indigenous environmental activist and ICTMN contributor. He recently wrote to us, asking to post his story about his 11-year-old brother, Itzcuauhtli, who has pledged a “talking strike” to demand that government leaders move forward on climate change. Here is his letter:

My name is Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and I am a 14-year-old Indigenous environmental activist.  My 11-year-old brother, Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez, is on his 35th 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!

A month ago, he asked my mom and me in the Newark Airport -- after he and I spoke and performed at an environmental conference called “Where Do We Go From Here” in upstate New York -- "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, he decided in the Newark Airport 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 a website he put up: 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.

Mark Ruffalo, who we met in New York at an Indigenous ceremony before the People’s 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, and we’re 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, which highlights our work in a climate change series called “Saving Our Tomorrow.“ We are also co-plaintiffs in a youth climate lawsuit, and the Supreme Court will consider hearing our case.

When we heard the news of last week’s historic US-China climate deal, Itzcuauhtli said that the deal was not good enough. 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. He 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.

On December 10, people will join him for his talking strike, and several other youth have been doing an hour-to-two hours of silence a day. A 12-year-old girl named Tusli Von wrote him 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 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.

Last week, my brother wrote on Facebook, 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 Climate Silence Now 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 Silent To Be Heard!

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 on climate action now!

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