Photo: Instagram, @israhirsi

Meet the 18-Year-Old Muslim Climate Activist Inspiring a Youth Movement

In the midst of President Biden’s partial adoption of the Green New Deal, first introduced in 2019 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), many high school students are still rallying for climate action. One of those on the front lines is Isra Hirsi, an 18-year-old Black Muslim climate justice activist. Hirsi was reportedly inspired by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Hirsi is now a co-founder and co-executive director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike alongside two other climate justice activists, Haven Coleman and Alexandria Villaseñor.

Muslim Girl honors Isra Hirsi with a place on our 2021 Muslim Women to Watch List. Read below to learn more about why.

For Hirsi, reading about the Green New Deal felt more much like a glimpse of hope in the aftermath of the current global climate crisis. But that hope is not enough.

Earlier in 2019, during an environmental justice event hosted by her mother, who is Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Hirsi emphatically told the crowd that the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.” 

Hirsi, Coleman, and Villaseñor have explained how the Green New Deal is pivotal to taking compelling steps toward mitigating the climate crisis, and how the proposal resonates with the vision of the climate strikes that they’ve been on.

“We strike to support the Green New Deal. Outrage has swept across the United States over the proposed legislation,” they said. “The Green New Deal is an investment in our future — and the future of generations beyond us — that will provide jobs, critical new infrastructure, and most importantly, the drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions essential to limit global warming. And that is why we strike,” they continued.

Likewise, Thunberg discussed in the foreword of the Climate Resistance Handbook, “I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” 

Omar has also been one of those who have endorsed the Deal, reiterating the fact that the climate crisis has been “is one of the greatest threats we as the human race has ever faced.” 

Climate change mostly affects communities of color and low-income communities…

“I’m one who is urging my colleagues to really take this opportunity to not just issue resolutions and talking points, but for us to actually put a real bill on the table and to allow us to have a real conversation on this issue,” Omar said.

Being, unlike most of her White counterparts, an activist voicing the role that intersectionality plays within the spheres of climate justice, Hirsi has addressed how climate justice is a social justice issue.

“Climate change mostly affects communities of color and low-income communities, and these people live in these areas under these conditions, and we don’t really do anything about it,” Hirsi told The Cut. “When we talk about the climate crisis, and we don’t talk about these communities that are being affected, we create this circle of it becoming a white issue, or an issue that doesn’t care about black and brown bodies,” she continued.

As an environmental activist who grew up in Minnesota, Hirsi earlier explained that her not being in contact with nature unlike her white peers in those activism spaces was something that left her feeling tokenized and totally unwelcomed. “[They’re] talking about how much they love grass and their lakes — I can’t connect with you on that. So it’s a subtle ‘we don’t want you here,’ because they talk about things, knowing people like me can’t relate,” Hirsi told Vice.

“When talking about intersectionality or Black and brown people, and how climate impacts them, it’s often seen as ‘you’re separating yourself from white people; you are excluding white activists; you’re against them.’ My answer for them is: if everyone was talking about these issues, then this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place,” Hirsi told The Mac Weekly. “They [white activists] would invite us to events just so we could be the tokens. They would compliment us on our speaking, just so that we would want to do it again,” she continued.

Since 2019, Isra Hirsi has been emphatically calling for having the next president address the issue of climate change.

If not for it being canceled, Hirsi would have been expected to hold a livestream this April 27 about what environmental justice means for those who have been brought up in urban communities. Hirsi did not respond to requests for comment, so we are unable to say why the event won’t be streamed.

Since 2019, Isra Hirsi has been emphatically calling for having the next president address the issue of climate change. And with President Biden now taking steps toward applying the Green New Deal, Hirsi and the rest of the climate change activists are hoping to see on-ground solutions.

“I want the next president to not just recognize that climate change is real, but also speak to people in Congress about how we can change everything we’ve been doing on climate change,” Hirsi told Greenpeace. “One, be a champion of the actual Green New Deal. Do something to make that real. Two, start focusing on solutions that can put us back on track to stopping climate change […] we can’t have a president who just says they support the Green New Deal without explaining what that means, and we can’t just let them say they care about climate change and then move on. They have to consistently focus on doing things to fix the problem,” she continued.

Meet more of our 2021 Muslim Women to Watch here.