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An Aztec hip-hop millennial battle for the globe

We Rise. The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet
Forfatter: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
Forlag: Rodale (USA)
A new, young voice is fighting for indigenous people as well as the environment. This is how he spreads hope both to his own generation and to the elderly.


Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has never accepted a nickname: We should strive for pronunciation ("seven-teaser"). In his recently released environmental campaign, he self-asserts: "I am 17 years old, and I am doing everything I can to fight for change in a world that is about to collapse."

Martinez is an American-born rapper and environmental activist with a Mexican background. He has an Aztec ancestry – a culture that even 500 years after Cortés' colonization and even years of cultural repression, led by the Catholic Church, has kept alive.

As a nine-year-old, Xiuhtezcatl takes over the leadership role in her mother's environmental movement. 15 year old holder
he speaks at the UN.

Xiuhtezcatl describes how, as a five-year-old, he was included in nightly rituals on top of Aztec pyramids. But it was in Colorado that he grew up. In 1992, his mother started an environmental movement in Hawaii, which was then led by Xiuhtezcatl's sister. At the age of six, he gave his first speech at an environmental meeting in the movement, pointing out that the problems were greater than he had hoped when he was five. From spying on his sister's youth meetings, he soon transitioned to actively participate in the organization, and as a nine-year-old he took over the leadership role. Six years later, at the age of 15, he spoke at the UN.

Environmental dekolonialisering

We Rise. The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet is partly an autobiography and partly a self-help book for those who want to build an environmental movement – as well as a highly informative introduction to today's environmental problems. The book is full of examples, numbers and interviews with leading figures. Closest to Xiuhtezcatl are his artist-activist colleagues, who are also brought in through interviews. Dallas Goldtooth, the leader of the 1491 Comedy Group, is one of them. The two talks, among other things, on how they can decolonize the environmental movement.

During the reading, one is struck by the same insight that Xiuhtezcatl has acquired: that the majority of pioneers and environmentalists, such as Bill McKibben and Leonardo DiCaprio, are white. Most people who are hit hardest by environmental problems, however, are usually colored.

The native culture of the indigenous people is admired by whites, but also caricatured. Humor helps counter stereotypes: In one of their stand-up shows, Dallas Goldtooth presents his "White Guilt Donation Guide" and invites us to laugh at the situation. Dallas emphasizes that reality is complex and that indigenous peoples do not have all the answers – submerged in social problems as they also are.


The wave of teenage suicides in the reserves is also part of Xiuhtezcatl's awakening: He sees that in the environmental movement, it is possible to get out of depression and resignation by finding a joint fight case. The parade example is the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline pipeline, which the white population of the city of Bismarck would not know of, and which was instead planned to be led across the Sioux Reservation Standing Rock. This cynical combination of colonialist arrogance and environmentally hostile projects can trigger an epoch-making mass movement for climate rights: "The Fight for the Earth" here was far from a soaring cliché, but was a highly concrete political battle for the earth and the drinking water for a cow, but not crack people. The movement became a new source of pride and a new form of interaction for indigenous groups – for music and a positive identity for the young.

Xiuhtezcatl is one of the leaders in the "children's climate lawsuit" against the US state, helped by, among others, the Nobel Prize-winning social economist Joseph Stiglitz, who assisted with legal assistance. Another group that works with climate lawsuits is the Norwegian branch of Earth Guardians. These are well established on Facebook and build up to the Climate Festival §112, which kicks off in January 2019. This young and peaceful environmental revolution deserves all possible help and support – and gives hope even to those who sit on the sidelines.

Anders Dunk
Anders Dunker
Philosopher. Regular literary critic in Ny Tid. Translator.

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