There is a saying that action speaks louder than words. In the era of social media, we often forget that there are many people across the globe who are fighting the climate change war, but not posting selfies about it on Facebook.
These five people are among many who are battling for a better future, and they are doing it far away from the limelight.
YouTuber with a plan
YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson – known to his millions of fans as MrBeast – spearheaded the #TeamTrees campaign since October this year to commemorate achieving 20 million subscribers on his channel by planting 20 million trees.
After getting bombarded by his fans on Twitter, Reddit and the comment section on his YouTube videos, MrBeast decided it was time to step up and make the incredible idea a reality.
The campaign's goal was to raise $20 million by January 1, 2020 to plant trees in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation's reforestation programme, with donations as little as $1 a tree.
With a handful of friends, he managed to plant 300 trees on the first day of the campaign.
Realising that it is a pretty difficult task for one person, MrBeast teamed up with 600 YouTubers with an impressive 650 million followers collectively.
The campaign took much less time than anticipated. The #TeamTrees organisers announced on December 19 that the cause had already achieved its goal for the end of the year, raising money to plant 20 million trees in less than two months.
Some of the biggest names in YouTube and tech have donated to the cause, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke, YouTuber PewDiePie and Jeffree Star.
Little girl vs government
Ridhima Pandey from India was among the 16 children who filed a complaint to protest the lack of government action on the climate crisis at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September this year.
The now 11-year-old girl grew interested in climate change after witnessing the Uttarakhand floods in 2013, which caused more than 5,000 deaths and damaged more than 4,000 villages.
Ridhima – a resident of Haridwar – was just 9 in 2017, but it did not stop her from filing a lawsuit through her legal guardians against the Indian government.
The little girl filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the government for failing to take action on climate change, highlighting the growing concern over pollution and environmental deterioration in the country.
She demanded that the courts ask the government to earmark a budget to keep carbon emissions in check, and create a plan to help India recover from the effects of climate change.
The NGT, however, said climate change is already covered under the environmental impact assessment and, much to her dismay, disposed of her plea. The matter is now pending in the Indian Supreme Court.
The bespectacled young girl is not shy of voicing her opinions as a climate activist and is certainly not oblivious to the flood of online abuse and smear campaigns directed at her.
War against microplastics
Plastic buildup in our oceans is a matter of grave concerns, but microplastics may pose even a greater threat.
Fionn Ferreira, an 18-year-old from West Cork, Ireland, decided to do something about this particular environmental pollutant.
Ferreira's method for efficient removal of microplastics from water won him the prestigious Google Science Fair competition in 2019.
Microplastics have a diameter of 5nm or less and are too small for filtering during wastewater treatment. They are often included in soaps, shower gels, and facial scrubs to help exfoliate the skin. The pollutant can also come off clothing even during regular washing.
Microplastics then make their way into water bodies and are nearly impossible to remove through filtration systems.
Small fish have been found to eat microplastics. These microplastics are concentrated into larger fish species that humans consume, as larger fish eat smaller fish.
The young genius used a combination of oil and magnetite powder to create a ferrofluid in the water containing microplastics. After the microplastics bonded with the ferrofluid, it was extracted. Ferreira then used a magnet to remove the solution and leave only water.
The method was 87 percent effective in removing microplastics from water collected from different sources, showed results from 1,000 tests.
Ferreira plans to adapt the technology so that it can be implemented at wastewater treatment facilities.
The teenager has an impressive string of accomplishments. Ferreira is the curator at the Schull Planetarium, fluently speaks three languages, won 12 science fair competitions, plays the trumpet in an orchestra, and MIT has named a minor planet after him.
Fighting climate change in Uganda
When Leah Namugerwa from Uganda turned 15 this year, she decided to plant 200 trees instead of having a birthday party. This was her latest effort to cast a spotlight on the environmental damage in her country.
She spends her days juggling school, protests, and giving speeches in regional capitals, rallying for action to save the earth.
When she was 12, Namugerwa watched TV news reports about Uganda's devastating famine of 2017. During that period, a drought left millions in need of food aid.
Deeply dismayed by the suffering of her people, she felt determined to act. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, she held her debut protest on February 1 this year and has been striking every Friday ever since.
She is an ambassador for the school strike for the climate movement, also known as Fridays for Future (FFF).
Namugerwa is also pushing her government to take action against the climate crisis by launching the campaign #BanPlasticUG to tackle the issue of plastic pollution.
Like many others in Africa, Leah Namugerwa's country is at risk of desertification – a process that causes fertile agricultural land to turn barren. Many experts claim droughts and elevated temperatures – two factors linked to climate change – cause it to occur.
Man who planted a forest
Jadav Molai Payeng was only 16 when floods hit his hometown in Jorhat area of Assam, India. The flood devastated the biodiversity in the region, causing all animals and birds to flee.
Deeply impacted by the disaster, Jadav approached officials from the local forest department, but they told him off asking him to go and plant trees on his own. He decided to roll up his sleeves and did exactly what he was told.
Within a few days, he started planting bamboo saplings along the Brahmaputra River.
Fast forward to three decades later, Jadav has single-handedly converted the flood struck region into a lush 1,360 acres of forest by planting a few trees every day.
Molai forest – which is named after him – is now home to Bengal tigers, Indian rhinos, apes, deer, rabbits and different species of migratory birds. One with the nature, Jadav lives in the forest with his wife and three children. He leads a simple life by selling milk from a few cattle he owns.
Jadav was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2015 for his tremendous contribution to environment conservation.
Climate activism should be more than talking at microphones and holding strikes. We must take inspirations not from media personalities, but from climate activists hard at work to make the world a better place.