19-Year-Old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Isn't Waiting For Permission to Solve the Climate Crisis: "The Time Is NOW"
19-year-old activist and musical artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has been advocating for the environment since he was 6 years old — and in his opinion, 13 years is too long to be waiting for things to change. So, along with Earth Guardians (the environmental justice organization he serves as Youth Director for), Xiuhtezcatl is launching NOW, a new platform that will empower people of all ages to easily support removing CO2 from the atmosphere through culture, technology, music, and more, via a flexible subscription model. Essentially, NOW is the Netflix of fighting the climate crisis.
To learn more about this unique new platform, which was announced on Wednesday, Sept. 18, Green Matters caught up with Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced shoe-tez-caht) on the phone, where he talked about the inspiration behind NOW, how the platform will work, and why the launch is focused on reforestation.
Here’s how NOW will work: Anyone can sign up for a monthly subscription to NOW, for any amount from $5 each month to $100 each month (people can also try the service out with a one-time donation of any amount). Your money will go directly to planting trees, using both human and drone technology — a process that NOW plans to be very transparent about with its subscribers.
NOW will be housed on both www.generation-now.com and on the EarthTracks app, known as a “fitness tracker for the planet,” that helps users measure their environmental footprint. The app was created earlier this year by Earth Guardians, an organization that trains diverse youth to lead environmental and social justice movements all around the globe. In addition to tree-planting, NOW plans to partner with a network of musicians, athletes, and entrepreneurs to create content and give subscribers additional perks, none of whom Xiuhtezcatl can reveal yet.
“I began this work when I was 6. So it’s been an actual lifelong journey,” Xiuhtezcatl tells Green Matters over the phone. “Every layer of advocacy and activism and action that I’ve had the opportunity to engage in, from the lawsuit pursuing the federal government in the state of Colorado, to community action, education, traveling, speaking, writing books — it’s just gotten to a point where waiting for political action to happen is just not something we can afford."
"Yes, we need politicians to act, yes, we need to flip the Senate and elect a president who will take vigorous action on climate change, yes we need the United Nations and the governments of the world to step up to the game to decarbonize our global economies," he continues. "But that’s not anything that we really have time to sit idly by and wait for. There is so much grassroots momentum from people right now, especially the people leading this climate fight.”
Looking at that grassroots momentum, the 19-year-old says he asked himself, “How do we break this barrier that I think the climate movement has had since its beginning, that has kept people from really wanting to engage at a mainstream level?” As he sees it, “We have not yet reached the masses with this movement.” To do that, Xiuhtezcatl believes “we have to draw carbon down immediately, to remove carbon from the atmosphere to stop the warming of the planet, and on top of that, we need to build a momentum globally that does more than just juice up people that have been in the environmental movement for years. We need a new energy, and a space.”
After making those observations, Xiuhtezcatl looked to a few studies. “A recent article came out that said there’s 71 million people in the U.S. who would pay $10 a month to reverse the climate crisis. And the latest study around drawdown said that the fastest, most efficient, cost effective way to reverse the climate crisis in the next 10 years is to plant a trillion trees,” Xiuhtezcatl tells Green Matters. “The whole vision of NOW is to address urgency, so we can have a call to action behind the strikes, the marches, the documentaries that are being produced, and the books that are being written. Something that we can tangibly be building into the hands of individuals across the globe that facilitates the actual reversal of the climate crisis without having to wait for government action.”
Xiuhtezcatl recognizes that government action is essential, but he doesn’t think there is time to wait for these laws to change. “I’m not saying [government action] is not important, not saying that this is the only way to get involved and play our part,” he says. “But we are adding another layer that is a very low barrier of entry, that regular people who maybe can’t give up their jobs to go march in the streets, or they can’t take up a whole bunch of time to organize their communities or to lobby congress, but they can pay a monthly subscription to Netflix — but do it to preserve the planet for present and future generations. That’s kind of the essence of NOW. It creates something that’s very easy for anybody anywhere to tap into the reversal of the climate crisis.”
Even though NOW is being launched as a subscription service, Xiuhtezcatl explains that that's just how it is launching. “What NOW is able to create is more than just a subscription service, but really a creative house. There’s going to be tapping in with various different sectors of society to have a carbon drawdown plugin implemented,” Xiuhtezcatl says.
“For example, for ticketed events, for concerts, for sporting events, we’ll be taking percentages off of ticket sales to go directly towards planting forests with this network of artists and athletes and models and entrepreneurs that we begin to link up with around the globe," he explains. "We are planning on launching product collaborations with different corporations to be funneling finances into reforestation, working with the top cultural and fashion designers to put out lines of clothing that are going to reforest the planet ... A huge piece of it as well is working on creating and putting out a lot of content to help create a strong narrative and storytelling around the reforestation around the globe, and how your dollar is traveling to these places to actually create impact.”
Not only does Xiuhtezcatl hope that NOW will remove carbon from the atmosphere and strengthen the momentum behind the climate movement, but he wants the platform to send a message that young people have the power to continue changing what it means to be an activist.
“I think NOW is a really powerful representation of how our generation and young people are completely reinventing the space of climate activism and of creating impact and change. This crisis really threatens the survival of not just future generations, and people in 100 years, but people in the world today. And [the climate crisis] is posing us with this amazing opportunity for us to exist in a very unified moment,” the 19-year-old tells Green Matters. “And that means that we are getting more intelligent and creative with the ways that we are tapping into and building solutions than I think we have ever seen in this movement. And for me, that means that I don’t have to be bound to these ideas of what it means to be an activist, or what it means to create change. I’m gonna be out there touring, playing music and shows as an artist, I’m gonna be out there pushing this company as an entrepreneur, I’m gonna be out in the streets supporting my other fellow warriors on the frontlines, protecting water and our future.”
Xiuhtezcatl would also like for NOW to support his fellow youth — whether or not they can afford a monthly subscription. “I think young people across the board have brilliant ideas that need to be brought to life. And so to all the youth out there, I’m not only encouraging you to support the platform, and to sign up to give money every month, or to encourage your parents to sign up for the platform, but I’m encouraging you to pursue your ideas, your visions, your dreams, your passions,” he says. “This isn’t about being an activist, it’s about our human potential, and unlocking that and leveraging that to create change in the world. That’s what the company is about too — accelerating the human potential to reverse the climate crisis, through this carbon drawdown plugin. So I think it’s very in alignment with where the world is at right now.”
Even though plenty of other tree-planting initiatives exist, there are none quite like NOW. And as Xiuhtezcatl puts it, that’s because: “We are going way beyond activism. We are going from our streets to actual solutions that are going to reverse the climate crisis, without having to wait for any adult to tell us that it’s OK, or give us permission.”