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This Hip-Hop Artist Is Making Climate Change a Mainstream Subject

Photos: Courtesy of Josue Rivas

Climate change isn’t an issue that resonates with everyone, but indigenous activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez wants to change that.

Through his work as youth director of the organization Earth Guardians, Martinez is striving to get more people, especially youths, involved in protecting the environment. 

“Now more than ever, the communication and the story around the climate is what’s preventing this conversation from reaching the mainstream,” said the 19-year-old Boulder, Colorado, native, whose first name is pronounced “shoo-tez-cat.” “And I think we’re getting there.”

His primary method of getting conversations started and raising awareness is meeting people where they are and emphasizing that climate change isn’t only about protecting forests and the ocean. In fact, he stresses, it reaches much further. 

“You don’t have to be an avid, outdoorsy advocate of nature and tree-hugger type of person to care,” Martinez said. “It could be access to clean water because of an oil refinery in your community or your connection to the movement could be your family is misplaced because of rising sea levels.

“Everything from our economics, to our politics, to our agriculture systems are all in complete transition and breakdown right now, and they will continue to be in the next decade if we don’t massively transition our society from using fossil fuels to green energy.”

Going mainstream

That not everyone realizes the importance of halting climate change can be frustrating for Martinez, who has been involved in the effort since he was 6. But from speaking around the world and communicating about environmentalism through his music, he knows the importance of staying optimistic in the face of inaction among others.

“There are lots of challenges that come with being part of a society and a world where the majority of people aren’t actively engaged in challenging a lot of these broken systems,” he said. “I do everything in my power to build platforms for the many, many people out there who do care, who are inspired, and are excited about the chance we have to change things.”

Ultimately, though, Martinez hopes he is able to raise everyone’s awareness about climate change by making the conversation go mainstream.

“We’re slowly getting there, but we have to not just expand the bubble of people who are part of these conversations, but literally just pop it,” he said, “and kind of rephrase and redefine the storytelling that we have engaged in around the movement.”

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