Credit: Finnish Schools Int Kosovo, John F Kennedy School The American School of Querétaro, Bangladesh Environmental Society, Jacurunda Foundation and School in Malawi, Draschestrasse School Austria

Special report

The environmentalists of tomorrow are taking action today

Watch how young people made a difference for Call to Earth Day

All over the world, a new generation is taking a stand to protect the environment.

Written by Nadia Leigh-Hewitson, CNN A day of action for a lifetime of change

On November 10, 2021, CNN held the first-ever Call to Earth Day. Celebrating a planet worth protecting, CNN partnered with schools, individuals, and organizations across the world to raise awareness of environmental issues.

From every region of the globe, people united on behalf of the environment, and young people showed how they are fighting for the world they will inherit. By planting trees, collecting litter, sharing stories and protecting biodiversity, they are leading the way to a more sustainable future.

At a time when our planet is facing unprecedented environmental challenges, these events, led by the next generation of eco heroes, are cause for hope.

For the first-ever Call to Earth Day

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In at least 0 Countries

Call to Earth Day around the world

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These social posts are a selection of Call to Earth Day activities from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, curated by CNN.

Photo of the action

Meet the environmentalists of tomorrow

North America: Pre-schoolers are planting the forest giants of the future

Towering hundreds of feet above the ground in the majestic forests of California and southern Oregon are the giant redwoods, the tallest organisms on Earth.

In ideal conditions, they can live over two millennia, but according to US non-profit Save the Redwoods over 95% of natural redwood forest in the US has been lost to deforestation and destructive wildfires.

“Redwoods – we need them!”

Ashley Kamerer, aged four

David Milarch, founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, has been taking samples from the largest redwoods in the US to help restore lost forests. At his lab in Copemish, Michigan, a single tree sample can be grown into an unlimited number of saplings using a technique called micro-propagation.

For Call to Earth Day, Milarch planted a future forest of redwoods with the help pre-schoolers from Cow Hollow School, San Francisco.

Planting
Even young children are able to sow the seeds of a healthier environment. Credit: Archangel Ancient Tree Archive / Ethan Swope

The beauty of tree planting is that anyone can get involved. “I know how to make a hole,” said four-year-old “tree-schooler” Ashley Kamerer. With that ability, she has all the skills she needs to be a part of the replanting effort. Kamerer has a clear message about these colossal trees: “Redwoods - we need them.”

Milarch and the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive hope to partner with schools around the world to replant millions of redwoods. With the help of the tree-schoolers, a dozen new redwoods were planted for Call to Earth Day. “Those trees in 10 years will be 30 or 40 feet tall,” said Milarch.

“I think the whole world needs that message of hope,” he said. “If a three or four-year-old can do it, what's your excuse?”

Highlights: North america

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Eco Urban Gardens United States
Planting lavender shrubs for tea and tinctures.

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Luz of Stella Lucci, Inc. United States
A sustainable fashion show for reused and upcycled clothes.

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Paddle Out Plastic United States
Removing plastic and fishing gear from LA Harbor.

From the smallest hands to the largest living organisms on Earth, preschool children are planting the next generation of giant redwoods. Credit: CNN

South and Central America: Young advocates are changing the narrative on climate change

The world’s youth are fast becoming the protagonists in the story of climate action. For Call to Earth Day, international non-profit Restless Development hosted a global workshop on eco-storytelling, giving a platform to five young activists from communities severely affected by climate change.

“Sharing honest stories of climate change … is essential to reconnect us with each other and with nature”

Inés Yábar, aged 25

One of these was Inés Yábar, 25, an environmentalist based in Lima, Peru. Yábar says that in her country, the effects of climate change are evident: “Floods on the coastline, glaciers melting in the mountains and rainforest fires in the Amazon,” she said. “Everyone in Peru is at risk.”

“It's every human’s role to protect the world that we live in and there is no time to lose, which is why us young people have stepped up,” Yábar added.

Inés
Through storytelling, Inés Yábar hopes to influence people to take action to combat climate disaster. Credit: Restless Development

The workshop showed hundreds of young people around the world how to use their stories to advocate for climate action.

“Sharing honest stories of climate change … is essential to re-connect us with each other and with nature,” said Yábar. “As young people, sharing our own eco-stories is really powerful because we can ground climate change in the realities that make people care about this crisis. I believe everyone has a story to share.”

Highlights: South america

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Kids Saving The Rainforest Costa Rica
“It’s super-important for kids to stop climate change.”

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HUNAB proyecto de vida AC Mexico
Planting gardens with native plants.

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Global Penguin Society Argentina
Cleaning a beach for baby penguins.

Inés Yábar says young people must share their stories of climate change. Credit: Courtesy of Inés Yábar

Europe: Fighting for litter-free fjords

Anyone who has ever been to the beach, spent the day at a lake or walked beside a canal will have seen how plastic waste impacts water systems. Around 8 million tons of plastic waste finds its way into the open ocean every year.

“Individual action is not enough – in order to solve massive problems such as plastic pollution, we need a system change and a fundamental change in our mindset”

Kaapo Haapanen, aged 17

On the Norwegian coastline a high proportion of this waste is fishing gear. For Call to Earth Day, UWC Red Cross Nordic, a school on the west coast of Norway, took 18 young volunteers from 16 countries on a wooden sailboat along the coast, to see the damage first-hand and to undertake an ambitious week-long fjord clean-up.

Collecting
Collecting waste from the Norwegian fjords. Credit: UWC Red Cross Nordic

The volunteers collected a ton of waste in just a few days, but they were disturbed by the scale of plastic pollution, even in remote regions.

“We worked five days in harsh weather, but in the end it was an extremely rewarding experience,” said volunteer Kaapo Haapanen, aged 17. “Unfortunately, it's still a fact that individual action is not enough – in order to solve massive problems such as plastic pollution we need a system change and a fundamental change in our mindset.”

The world’s waterways are facing a crisis of plastic pollution. But with a push for awareness led by youth environmental groups, fjords free from marine litter can be a reality.

Highlights: Europe

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Wind Europe Belgium
Demonstrating wind power.

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Finnish Schools Int. Kosovo Kosovo
"It’s our duty to save the Earth’s beauty."

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UWC Red Cross Nordic Norway
Cleaning plastic from fjords.

A group of young environmentalists set out along the coast of Norway to clean up marine litter. Credit: UWC Red Cross Nordic

Africa: Democratizing environmentalism, tree by tree

In the rust-coloured dirt of Uganda, Nyombi Morris, 23, has planted over 7,000 trees this year alone.

For the past two years, Morris has been buying native plants and seeds from community gardens and local gardeners. Restoring soil, rejuvenating habitats and improving quality of life for local communities are his priorities.

“Trees are the best technology in fighting climate change”

Nyombi Morris, aged 23

“I plant trees because it is not expensive, it is accessible environmental action,” said Morris. “It is easy to do and they are easy to take care of.”

He has worked with 13 schools across Uganda, teaching children the dangers of environmental damage and helping them to plant fruit trees. It may take decades for the trees to bear edible fruits, but the anticipation of sweet and juicy oranges is enough to engage a generation of children to do what Morris believes is key to saving the planet – plant trees.

Nyombi
Nyombi Morris wants the whole world to engage in tree planting efforts. Credit: Courtesy of Nyombi Morris

Rapid population increase and over-development have led to deforestation in Uganda. For Call to Earth Day, Morris and a group of volunteers planted 500 trees in Jinja city, in the south of the country.

Forest loss and damage is responsible for around 10% of global warming, according to the WWF, and has been connected to flooding and desertification worldwide. Morris wants to inspire a massive global effort to restore forests, some of nature’s most powerful carbon stores. “Trees are the best technology in fighting climate change,” he said.

Highlights: Africa

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Chisipite Senior School Zimbabwe
“It only takes one person to make a positive impact.”

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University of Seychelles Seychelles
Pledging to reduce their carbon footprint.

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Ewi Stephanie Lamma Cameroon
“The Earth provides us with everything we need.”

A group of volunteers planted trees in Jinja city, Uganda. Credit: Courtesy of Nyombi Morris

The Middle East: Young Beirutis take to the beach and the streets to call for recycling

Every minute, 1 million plastic bottles are sold globally, while five trillion single-use carrier bags are used each year. Beirut is a city that feels the impact of non-sustainable consumption more than many other places. In recent years, Lebanon has been experiencing a crisis in waste management, with only around 8% of municipal waste recycled.

“Every time there’s a high tide, the waves bring in the garbage to the shores”

Ali Hussain, aged 14

Beirut-based humanitarian group Ahla Fawda has been inspiring youth-led community clean-ups since 2006. For Call to Earth Day, the group led a huge beach clean, and a program where people were given food parcels in exchange for recyclables. It also organized a litter-picking day across 12 districts of Beirut – which collected at least 220 pounds of rubbish and turned the city’s trash bins into works of art to encourage responsible waste management.

Ahla
Lebanese non-profit Ahla Fawda leads community recycling projects. Credit: Ahla Fawda

The group’s 27 beach-cleaning volunteers were spontaneously joined by around 100 local children and young adults, demonstrating how simple acts can snowball to generate a bigger impact.

“Every time there’s a high tide, the waves bring in the garbage to the shores and we couldn’t walk on the sands because of glass, wood and nails,” said Beiruti Ali Hussain, 14, who took part. “Ahla Fawda came and cleaned our shoreline. We saw and said ‘we can clean like them.’”

Highlights: The Middle East

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Brighton College AD UAE
Pledging to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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Ahla Fawda Lebanon
Beautifying waste bins.

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Green Factor Lebanon Lebanon
Upcycling plastic containers and reusing them as plant pots.

Young volunteers led a beach clean-up in Beirut. Credit: Ahla Fawda

Asia: Getting serious about plastic waste

Ten-year-old Hamshini Pathmaruben looks tiny next to the pile of rubbish she collected from her local waterway in rural Malaysia. She cleans it up every week, and she is running out of patience with plastic waste.

A 2020 study by international researchers estimated that even with global efforts to reduce plastic consumption, there will be 710 million metric tons of plastic polluting the environment by 2040.

“Every single person needs to make an effort to save our planet”

Hamshini Pathmaruben, aged 10

Pathmaruben is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Led by young activists like Pathmaruben, WAGGGS has taken on the international Plastic Tide Turners Challenge, a UN initiative that asks young people to establish their own projects to tackle plastic pollution.

For Call to Earth Day, Girl Guides around the world planted trees, cleaned beaches, and led community awareness events. Like many young girls across the WAGGGS network, Pathmaruben cares deeply about the environment and is dedicated to looking after natural spaces in her neighborhood.

Hamshini
Hamshini Pathmaruben works hard to keep her local waterways clear of litter. Credit: Courtesy of Hamshini Pathmaruben / WAGGGS

“My recommendation to people is to say no to plastics,” Pathmaruben said. “If you can’t say no to plastics, the least you could do is to dispose of your waste properly.”

“We only have one Earth,” she adds. “No effort is too small. Every single person needs to make an effort to save our planet.”

Highlights: Asia

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Nanjing International School China
Getting back to nature.

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Jakarta intercultural School Indonesia
Learning about plant life cycles, and planting seeds.

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Shaws Preschool Singapore
Nurturing butterfly gardens.

Hamshini Pathmaruben cares for her neighborhood. Credit: Courtesy of Hamshini Pathmaruben

Oceania: Indigenous youths tackle invasive species in the Cook Islands

The South Pacific island of Rarotonga is experiencing an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish, one of the largest species of starfish in the world and a major cause of coral decline across Oceania. If not controlled, the starfish will decimate the coral reefs off the coast of the island.

On land, Rarotonga is battling invasive plants such as the grand balloon vine and the African tulip, which have pushed out native species.

“The future is uncertain. But what is certain is I will be a part of the solution”

Raetea Rongo, aged 12

Environmental group Kōrero O Te `Ōrau was founded in 2017 on Rarotonga with a mission to protect the culture, environment and natural resources of the Cook Islands. Its name translates to "knowledge of the sky, land, and sea."

For Call to Earth Day, the group’s young Māori students led a project to clear invasive species and repopulate the land with native bananas, known as ‘ūtū. They also removed starfish from the reef to use as fertilizer for the newly cleared plantation.

Cook
Young Cook Islanders like Raetea Rongo are fighting for the planet the way their ancestors always have. Credit: Konini Rongo / Rongokura Productions

The Cook Islands have a negligible carbon footprint, but they are threatened by rising sea levels as a result of climate change caused by carbon emissions from developed countries.

“I am a child of two worlds -- a Western world on my mother’s American side and a traditional world on my father’s Māori side,” says Raetea Rongo, a 12-year-old member of Kōrero O Te `Ōrau. “Climate change has made my two worlds collide, and the future is uncertain. But what is certain is I will be a part of the solution.”

That certainty is shared by a new generation around the world that is leading the way for a healthier planet, and proving that you are never too young to protect the Earth.

Highlights: Oceania

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Kōrero o te ’Ōrau Cook Islands
Growing native bananas.

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Pahina Wuzi Forest Papua New Guinea
Planting a medicinal plant in a national park.

A young Māori community on the island of Rarotonga, in the South Pacific, is using a combination of science and traditional knowledge to protect the local environment. Credit: Konini Rongo / Rongokura Productions