The way terms like “activist burnout” and “climate anxiety” roll off the tongue of 14-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor is a worrying but telling insight into what it’s like to be a face of the global youth climate change movement. Pulling 12-hour days in the halls of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, founding her own advocacy organization Earth Uprising, and unfailingly spending every Friday in front of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan as part of the Fridays for Future movement have become Villaseñor’s norm. Media often approach her in the streets; the likes of Patagonia and Teen Vogue have featured her in profiles. There’s little doubt that she’s headed toward a leadership role of her choosing.
Yet the poised New York native takes it in impressive stride, educating herself by reading IPCC reports alongside experts like Michael Mann, Katherine Heyhoe or Kate Marvel to inform the addresses she now regularly gives, forming friendships with the global community of other young climate activists, and taking time off when she needs it.
“It’s important that you take care of yourself, because we’re in this for the long haul,” she says. “Once you get involved in climate activism, there really is no way to go back, because you see what is happening to our planet, and you can’t ignore it.”