In teaching Yoga Calm, we talk a lot about the power of modeling: performing the behaviors you want your students, clients, or children to emulate, as well as drawing attention to other positive models.
But adults are hardly the only examples kids have to follow. Peer modeling is just as important and effective.
It’s one reason why we felt compelled to include the stories of some real life youth Earth Warriors in our handbook for blending Yoga Calm with environmental education. When kids see other young people actually making our world a healthier place, they recognize that they can do that, too, and apply the skills and knowledge they learn through their Earth Warriors classes in their own communities.
In fact, the Earth Warriors progression inherently moves children toward action that is essential to our very lives: taking care of the natural environment we need for all forms of life to thrive.
Here are a few of the profiles we share in Earth Warriors to empower kids in their environmental stewardship…
Indigenous climate activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced “shoo-tez-caht”) Martinez began speaking out at the early age of 6 (you can watch his first speech here) and has never stopped fighting for a healthy environment. From TED Talks to speeches at the UN and around the world, he has worked locally on issues such as pesticides in parks, coal ash containment, and fracking. This one-time Youth Director of Earth Guardians is also lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the federal government for denying their Constitutional rights by ignoring climate change.
“The marching in the streets, the lifestyle changes haven’t been enough so something drastic needs to happen,” Martinez said in a 2017 interview for Rolling Stone. “The change that we need is not going to come from a politician…, it’s going to come from something that’s always been the driver of change – people power, power of young people.”
Born into relative poverty in Malawi, William Kamkwamba was forced to quit school after a terrible famine devastated his family’s livelihood. A local library quenched his intense thirst for knowledge – and led him to discover he had a real interest in electronics. Working from rough plans found in one of the books there, at the age of 14, Kamkwamba built an electricity-producing windmill from blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials he collected in a nearby scrapyard. It powered four lights and two radios in his family’s home.
His story eventually caught the attention of TEDGlobal’s director Emeka Okafor, who offered a scholarship for him to attend and speak to the conference. There, he spoke not only of his windmill but his dream to build a larger one to help with irrigation in his village, as well as to return to school. Members of the TED community helped make this a reality.
Since then, Kamkwamba has also become a fierce advocate for things such as clean water, malaria prevention, and solar power. An award-winning documentary was made about his journey, and Kamkwama shared his own story in his memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope.
“I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi,” he recounts in that book, “and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.
Believing in the universal right to clean drinking water, Anishinaabe Indigenous rights advocate Autumn Peltier was just 13 years old when she addressed the UN about water protection. The following year, she was named as the Chief Water Protector for the Aniishnabek Nation, a title previously held by her great-aunt. Hailing from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada, Peltier has already been recognized with dozens of awards for her tireless activism on behalf of Mother Earth.
Hear Peltier tell her own story of how she came to believe so deeply in this issue:
“Keep going,” Peltier has said, “don’t look back, and if you have an idea, just do it; no one is going to wait for you or tell you what to do.”