When Xiye Bastida was 13, her family had plans to move to the United States from their small Mexican town of San Pedro Tultepec. Her parents, longtime environmental activists, had lined up yearlong appointments at New York City’s Center for Earth Ethics. But the day before their flight, rainfall flooded their drought-weary town, including spillover from heavily polluted lagoons and rivers. “On my last day, I was with my best friend,” Bastida says. “We were driving her to meet her mom, but we couldn’t get out because all of downtown was flooded.” Eventually they escaped, but the experience stayed with her. “I remember the pain of leaving without knowing what happened. It’s a town of 10,000 people, with little to no government assistance,” she explains.
Thankfully, the town recovered, though it continues to suffer from many of the same pollution issues. While her family wound up staying in New York long-term, she goes back often to visit extended family—she’s calling from there today, on break from her studies as a 20-year-old junior at the University of Pennsylvania, double majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Policy and Latin American Studies.
As young people have emerged as the leaders of today’s climate movement, Bastida has been at the forefront, from leading the first big student climate strike in NYC at 17 to co-founding Re-Earth Initiative, a youth-led organization that supports communities directly dealing with environmental restoration, a year later. “Re-Earth is about to turn three years old, and we just got our first big, million dollar grant,” she says. “We’re donating half to a specific project and one-quarter to various community projects. We see all of these donations going through the environmental space, but less than 1 percent go to women, and only a little more than half a percent makes it to indigenous communities. We see all of these disparities with funding, and I think that it’s time to support people who are already implementing the climate solutions in their communities.”
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