Martinez in 2016
May 9, 2000
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (// shoo-TEZ-kawt; born May 9, 2000), also known as Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, is an American environmental activist and hip hop artist. Martinez is the youth director of Earth Guardians, a worldwide conservation organization.
Martinez has spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the indigenous and other marginalized communities. He has spoken at the United Nations several times, and he gained popularity after delivering a 2015 speech at the United Nations General Assembly in English, Spanish and his native language, Nahuatl.
Martinez is one of 21 plaintiffs involved in Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government for failing to act on climate change. The lawsuit was filed in 2015, and a federal court rejected the government's move to dismiss the case in November 2016. Martinez is also one of seven plaintiffs in the Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission case; that case is a state-level lawsuit similar to Juliana v. United States.
Martinez was born in Colorado, but moved to Mexico in his infancy. As of 2019, he lives with his family in Boulder, Colorado. His mother, Tamara Roske, was one of the founders of the Earth Guardian Community Resource Center, a high school in Maui, Hawaii. Roske serves as Executive Director of Earth Guardians. Martinez has two younger siblings, sister Tonantzin, and brother Itzcuauhtli. His father, Siri Martinez, is of Aztec heritage, and he has raised his children in the tradition of the Mexica (one of the native peoples of México). His family has transferred the traditional knowledge of seeing an individual as part of a greater whole, and of emphasizing a connection between all aspects of the natural world. Therefore, Martinez sees an abuse of nature as "the tearing apart of a fragile and revered system."
As a teenager, Martinez has given three TED talks and was invited to speak before the United Nations on environmental policy. In June 2015, he spoke at the age of 15 in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl before the UN General Assembly on Climate Change. Martinez urged immediate climate action saying, “What’s at stake right now is the existence of my generation."
That same year, he competed with young musicians from around the world who submitted self-produced music "to inspire the negotiations" at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with their music and Martinez's selection "Speak for the Trees" was chosen as the Jury Award Winner.
Martinez asserts that education and young people are key elements of the movement for significant social and environmental change: "The marching in the streets, the lifestyle changes haven’t been enough so something drastic needs to happen. The change that we need is not going to come from a politician, from an orangutan in office, it’s going to come from something that’s always been the driver of change – people power, power of young people.”  When addressing the criticism of young people overusing technology in a 2016 interview with Bill Maher, Martinez noted that technology also brings people together to focus on a shared concern: "I think it’s an important tool that we have for networking and connecting with people. Social media and technology – it’s either a downfall and distraction for our generation, or a powerful tool we can use.”
Earth Guardians is an environmental activist organization which Martinez's mother, Tamara Roske, founded in 1992 as an accredited high school focusing on environmental issues. Over time, the school morphed into an international environmental conservation organization of which Martinez is the Youth Director. Their mission is to "inspire and train diverse youth to be effective leaders in the environmental, climate and social justice movements. Through the power of art, music, storytelling, civic engagement, and legal action, we’re creating impactful solutions to some of the most critical issues we face as a global community."[better source needed] They work to organize climate strikes, cultivate environmentally focused policy, and encourage individual activism through promoting voting registration. Martinez has worked on projects to control the spreading of coal ash, clean up pesticides in parks, and ban fracking in his state.
Climate change lawsuits
In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the US Federal government, Juliana et al. v United States et al. They argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. The plaintiffs also included parties from the fossil fuel industry as defendants in the lawsuit, but said parties were removed as defendants during pre-trial proceedings. The plaintiffs range in age from 9 to 20 and ten of the children have either Black or Indigenous backgrounds. The lawsuit was launched while Obama was still in office, but in 2017 the plaintiffs substituted Trump's name for that of the former president.
In 2018, he and 13 other youths filed another lawsuit, this time against the state government of Washington. He is the lead plaintiff in this Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission case. The lawsuit has been dismissed by King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott.
In April 2019, Martinez wrote an op-ed in TeenVogue endorsing Bernie Sanders for president, stating, "I believe Bernie Sanders has our back on climate change". In December 2018, Martinez spoke with Sanders at a town hall event called "Solving the Climate Crisis".
Martinez along with his brother and sister, together the Earth Guardians, are on all music streaming platforms. Their first album, Generation Ryse, was released in August 2014, and it includes eco hip-hop tracks like "What the Frack" and "Speak for the Trees". Through his music, he was highlighting specific environmental issues relevant to his state (Colorado) and facing the entire nation. Additionally, the album was aimed at today's youth in hopes of spreading their message of environmental awareness to their own generation.
Martinez released his first solo album, Break Free, in the spring of 2018, featuring songs like "Sage Up" and "Young". He worked with artists such as Nakho, Shaliene Woodley, and Tru along with his younger sister, who is featured in most of his music, Tonantzin Martinez.
- Imaginary Borders (Penguin Workshop Pocket Change Collective 2020)
- We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement That Restores the Planet (Rodale Books 2017)
- "These Kids Are Suing the Federal Government to Demand Climate Action. They Just Won an Important Victory". Time.
- "These Kids Are Suing the Federal Government to Demand Climate Action. They Just Won an Important Victory". Time. November 11, 2016.
- "Xiuhtezcatl Martinez | First Step: Anti-Bully Pulpit, Second Step: Hear Me Roar". Flaunt Magazine.
- Kim, Caitlyn. "Young Colorado Climate Activists Join Forces With Greta Thunberg In DC". Colorado Public Radio.
- Eyen, Lena. "Xiuhtezcatl Martinez". Santa Clara University. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
- Martin, Claire (May 28, 2014). "Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, 14, wants to save the world". The Denver Post. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
- Cumming, Ed (October 9, 2015). "Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez: 'Our greed is destroying the planet'". The Guardian. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
- Steyer, Carly (July 2, 2015). "15-Year-Old Gives Amazing Speech To UN About Climate Change". HuffPost. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
- McPherson, Coco (July 13, 2015). "Meet the Teenage Indigenous Hip-Hop Artist Taking on Climate Change". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
- "Winners of Global Challenges Youth Music Contest #GYMC15 Announced". United Nations. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- McPherson, Coco (July 19, 2017). "Environmental Activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: A Teen on the Front Lines". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
- McPherson, Coco (July 13, 2015). "The Teen Indigenous Hip-Hop Artist Fighting Climate Change". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
- "Xiuhtezcatl Martinez", Earthguardians.com, retrieved March 21, 2017
- "Meet the 16yo suing the US Government over climate change". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. February 6, 2017. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
- Keady, Cameron (April 22, 2015). "Colorado Teenager Rallies Youth Around The World To Protect The Planet". HuffPost.
- "Earth Guardians". Earth Guardians. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
- Funes, Yessenia (June 9, 2017). "5 Things to Know About The Youth-Led Climate Lawsuit Against Trump". Color Lines. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
- "Washington". Our Children's Trust. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
- Simón, Yara (December 21, 2018). "30 Latinxs Who Made an Impact in Their Communities in 2018". Remezcla. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
- Martinez, Xiuhtezcatl. "This Earth Day, I Believe Bernie Sanders Has Our Back on Climate Change". Teen Vogue.
- "Solving our Climate Crisis – A National Town Hall (2018)". Planeta.com. December 4, 2018.
- University, Santa Clara. "Xiuhtezcatl Martinez". www.scu.edu.
- McPherson, Coco (July 19, 2017). "Environmental Activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: A Teen on the Front Lines".
- "Best Artist - MTV EMAs: Complete Winners List". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
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