Eco Teen Action Network Leaders Engage in Fridays for Future Protests

Matthew Capuano-Rizzo, Eco Teen Action Network Leader

Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion participate in a “Die-In” on June 28 in front of the Washington Post building to advocate for increased coverage of the climate crisis and to specify its connection to other issues. 

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and founder of Fridays for Future, told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in January: “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 everyday and then I want you to act.” After striking from school for three weeks to protest the Swedish Parliament's handling of the climate crisis, her imperative to act on the climate crisis spread through social media around the world. 

In the DC Metro Area, the Extinction Rebellion, a United Kingdom-based group, has increased support for weekly protests organized by teens such as Kallan Benson and Sofia Geiger. Through a megaphone, Geiger led shouts “Hey hey! Ho-ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” down the streets of DC as our group of 30 protesters marched from Farragut Square to the Washington Post building. An organizer from Extinction Rebellion blasted a dance version of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” from a portable DJ system as protesters played drums. Painted signs read “Climate Crisis,” “Mass Extinction,” as well as blunt rebukes of media coverage of the issue such as “There is no debate, this is ‘R’ future,” pictured above. The Washington Post Climate Editor received Extinction Rebellion’s three demands, focusing principally on the first; tell the truth. 

An Extinction Rebellion activist from the United Kingdom briefed the small crowd on our reason for protesting. Mentioning the record heatwave in India, she stated that “we have been profiting off of their economies for over a century and they [developing countries] are the ones suffering the most from the climate crisis. Forty percent of the Indian population will be without water by 2030.” Youth from around the world citing climate change statistics and dancing with their signs underscore how the transformation of the environmental movement from a group of men sailing into a restricted area in Amchitka Island to halt nuclear testing to diverse compilations of youth, organizing for our collective present as well as future. 

In the face of rising populism, with leaders such as Javier Bolsenaro of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States, who continue to roll back environmental legislation, while questioning its founding science, Fridays for Future and its partner movements serve as a reminder of our capacity to unify in the face of this growing crisis. Increased destruction and displacement of people and ecosystems caused by increases in severe weather, sea-level rise, and ocean threatens our current world order. Recognizing climate change’s threat to peace underscores the necessity of cooperation between citizens, businesses, policymakers, and nations to confront the gravity of the crisis. 

Despite current questioning of the efficacy of international institutions such as the United Nations and European Union, these forums may be our best chance to coordinate global solutions to the climate crisis. The African continent’s anticipated implementation of a continent-wide free trade agreement is hoped to foster such cooperation, albeit environmental, logistical, and human rights concerns. Due to inconsistencies in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are falling short of halting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, a level that would ensure many island nations’ existence. Action at an international level must thus be paired with increasingly bold local action to match the scale of our crisis. We must ‘panic’ and then we must act.

Left to Right: Kallan Benson (Fridays For Future), Sage Stretch (Earth Uprising), Serena Moscarella (League of Conservation Voters), Soven Bhaget (FFF), Matthew Capuano-Rizzo (FFF/Sunrise), and Sofia Geiger (FFF) at a Fridays for Future Protest on July 19th in front of the United States Chamber of Commerce urging the organization to halt its support of the fossil fuel industry under its new American Energy: Cleaner, Stronger Agenda, proposed as an opponent of the Green New Deal. Protests so far have thus led groups previously unconcerned with environmental issues to develop plans to address the consequences of our development. Prior to the taking of this photo, students protested in front of the Plastic Industry Association as well as the Coca Cola Government Affairs Office. While the protest remains focused heavily on climate action, youth climate strikes occasionally include other issues such as plastic pollution.


SDG Hub on Climate Change to be Launched!

Written by Maria Llauger from Spain

Being aware of the short period of time that is left to address Climate Change, the Global Co Lab Network and Smithsonian Conservation Commons started a new initiative together with teens from all around the world to fight climate change. To start this new adventure, a Co Lab or small gathering was organized on March 29th with teens and adults including three teens skyped in online.

This was the first of a series of Virtual meetings called SDG Hubs that will focus on global warming. Different scheduled virtual chats will be held occasionally to keep in touch and bring more teens into the network to encourage change locally. At this Co Lab 6 teen activists (from Spain and the US) and a group of adult activists met to start planning a new project whose aim is to design the SDG Hub site to encourage teens to join to help change this world issue. On this SDG Hub teen Ambassadors will lead efforts working with an adult mentor to empower other teens and to share their experience about fighting climate change.

Climate change is the change that are suffering the global climate patterns, which appeared during the mid-late 20th century onwards with the appearing of industrialization. The main cause is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

The youth are the best to make this change, since that we are so familiarized with technology and all these new tools to spread information and raise awareness. If we don’t start acting now, the main damage will be us. This is a matter that is going to impact our generation primarily, thus we are the ones that need to help step up to make a change.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please email us at

Going to the United Nations!

I am Ellie Hart (far right) and a high school student from Washington DC.  I am also one of the Youth Ambassadors with the Teens Dream Responsible Consumption and Production SDG Hub, which focuses on engaging teens globally in virtual rooms to reduce plastic pollution. This project is a collaboration with the Smithsonian Conservation Commons and the Global Co Lab Network to build a network of teens on earth optimism and sustainable development!

On Friday February 22 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Global Engagement Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.  This year, UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit gathered 1,800 change-makers from across the country, representing 45 states, DC, and Puerto Rico to attend sessions with expert panelists and plenaries.

I arrived early to the opening plenary, having been advised that UN security can take a long time, and had the opportunity to talk to a few graduate students and people working on veteran’s rights. The opening plenary was delivered by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The Secretary-General devoted most of his speech to discussing the pressing threat of climate change. It was inspiring to hear the Secretary-General speak about an issue so important to me, and one related to our work at the plastic hub, since plastic production and waste impacts climate. Throughout the day, I went to sessions on human rights, climate change, and food security. I enjoyed hearing from diplomats, advocates, and ambassadors about the work they are doing to make a difference in the world.

The highlight of my day however, had to be the meeting I had with Michael Scott Peters, the U.S. Youth Observer to the U.N. Peters travels around the country talking to youth leaders about what is important to them and educating them about the U.N. I met with Peters, along with people from the International Orchestra of Refugees, which aims to connect displaced musicians, and ImpactEd, which gives college students real world problems to solve for companies in exchange for credit. I got to share about my work and hear about what others are doing in their fields. I felt inspired by the great strides others are making, since they are all relatively new groups as is mine. Talking to Peters and the others gave me hope that everyone’s work will pay off over time and helped me feel like the U.N. is listening to those it serves. Overall, I had a wonderful time at the 2019 UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit!

What is sustainable consumption and production?

The United Nation’s Twelfth Sustainable Development Goal aims to promote responsible use of natural resources for goods, energy, and infrastructure. As the world’s population continues to increase, there will no longer be enough resources for people to continue to consume as they have until now.

In order to address the negative environmental consequences of overconsumption, the UN has adopted the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. This plan focuses on reducing consumption by creating multi-stakeholder partnerships that will incentivize reusing and recycling, rethink food and water systems, and improve renewable energy technology.

The part of this wide-reaching goal that we have chosen to focus on is decreasing consumption of plastics by ending the use of single-use plastics, promoting recycling programs, and researching viable alternatives.


Infograph provided by Plastic Oceans



Interning for Teens Dream

Hello! My name is Hannah Jensen, and I am the fall intern for Teens Dream. My experience here at the Global Co Lab was not what I expected but in the best way possible. In high school, I learned about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); however, I did not realize at the time how much they would eventually change my perspective on the world. Working at the Co Lab has taught me that these goals are reachable, and after meeting all these incredibly passionate teens, I am confident that the next generation will make it their priority.

Because of this focus on the SDGs, the Co-Lab works with all areas of interests. Regardless of what I was working on, I felt that my interests were actively engaged. For instance, as a sophomore at Pepperdine University on the health tract, I was originally drawn to the Co Lab for its work with the UN SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being. During my time here, I was given the opportunity to explore this passion in many ways. I attended a luncheon on the dangers of plastics towards health which made me much more cautious about plastic use. One of my most memorable experiences was attending a symposium entitled, “Implications of Conflict and Emergencies for Global Health” held by the Global Health Interest Group at the NIH. I heard fascinating talks ranging from the spread of disease to the need to train mental health specialists in war zones. In addition, one of our teen winners is working with her mentor from the National Alliance of Mental Illness to open up a dream hub on mental health. I am so excited to see what the mental health dream hub accomplishes and am truly grateful for being a part of it.

Each day at the Co-Lab is different. It teaches you to be flexible and proactive. The beginning of my time here was largely focused on the annual celebration. This meant making sure that the winners had travel to DC, had host families to stay with, and mentors to meet with. After that, I worked on getting the next video contest out and helped build the platform for the incoming dream hubs; however, my favorite part of this internship had to be working with teens committed to making the world a better place. I learned that teens have really great ideas on how to improve the world, but they do not often have the resources to do so. The focus of Teens Dream is to encourage teens to pursue their passions and make sure their voice is heard. I am really proud of what this organization is accomplishing.

Good Health & Well-Being SDG Hub Launched

Welcome to the new Teens Dream Colab Dream covering Good Health & Well-Being. This SDG Hub works to further the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development.

Significant strides have been made in increasing life expectancy and reducing some of the common killers associated with child and maternal mortality, but working towards achieving the target of less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030 would require improvements in skilled delivery care.

Achieving the target of reducing premature deaths due to incommunicable diseases by 1/3 by the year 2030 would also require more efficient technologies for clean fuel use during cooking and education on the risks of tobacco.

Many more efforts are needed to fully eradicate a wide range of diseases and address many different persistent and emerging health issues. By focusing on providing more efficient funding of health systems, improved sanitation and hygiene, increased access to physicians and more tips on ways to reduce ambient pollution, significant progress can be made in helping to save the lives of millions.

Teens Dream Winner Fighting for SDG #16 - Strong Institutions

My name is Victor Corja and I am a 17-year-old currently living in Virginia, USA and a winner in the 2017 Teens Dream video competition with on fighting corruption in Moldova. I was born in Moldova, a small country in Europe with a quarter the size and half the population of Virginia and my dream is to end the corruption that permeates every aspect of life in my home country. Half of my extended family continues to live in Moldova, and through them, I constantly hear more and more news about the horrible injustice, political instability, and corruption that exist in every single transaction, opportunity, and event. The most significant example of this is the 2014 theft of a billion dollars from the main banks of Moldova - by the Prime Minister and his helpers. To put this into perspective, a billion dollars is equal to one-eighth of Moldova's GDP, and the loss of this money affects hundreds of thousands of people that lost their life savings in a single moment. While the Prime Minister was jailed, the money was never recovered, and the culprits that aided him were never caught - and sadly, this was not a crime that is seen rarely in Moldova.

My dream is to reform the institutions of Moldova through the people, providing more transparency and accountability of government officials currently stealing from their own people, and increasing the security of the money and rights currently being denied to Moldovan citizens. While this dream is immense in scope, I believe it is achievable through the right legislation combined with educational and governmental reform aimed at educating the people on the dangers of and protection against corruption. With a nation-wide effort to resist the corruption of government officials, tax inspectors, police officers, and any other person with any measure of authority, I believe that Moldova can become a country where knowing or paying someone with authority is not a requirement for having basic rights.

Teens Dream is a wonderful organization that let me share my dream with the world, and connected me with a wonderful and knowledgeable mentor, Hurriyet Ok who recently retired from the World Bank.  Hurriyet helped me understand the various ways in which my dream can begin to be achieved and inspired me to pursue my dream through ways that I hadn't thought of previously. Teens Dream also connected me with other teens from around the world.  Seeing their dreams and their journeys to achieving them also helped me believe my dream could actually be achieved.

Teens Dream Winner advocates for SDG #10 -- Reduced Inequality

Hi, my name is Cyril King and I’m a 16 year old Teens Dream winner from Connecticut.  I was thankful to be matched with a mentor and celebrated by Teens Dream for my video on LGTBQ equality.  My mentor Rebecca York is the Community Engagement & Youth Leadership Coordinator for SYMAL.  SYMAL is a great organization that opens many opportunities for LGBTQIA+ youth.  The mentorship allowed me the opportunity to discuss problems with the LGBTQIA+ community and how to solve those problems and more specifically to create a safe space in my community. One of the topics that we discussed was the lack comprehensive sexual education for LGBTQIA+ and how there needs to be a significant improvement in sexual education to establish that LGBTQIA+ youth have access to better health information and supportive environments. Another topic that we discussed is the organization of creating a safe space within my community where LGBTQIA+ teens can feel safe to be who they are without judgment or feeling disowned. Thanks to Rebecca York’s advice I already started to organize events for my GSA to create a safe space for LGBTQIA+ youth within my community to talk about sexual education, gender and sexuality studies. In the future, I hope to start a Teens Dream Equality SDG Hub to work with other teens to reduce the disparities of injustice and inequality worldwide regardless of sex, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, age, disability, origin, religion, economic or another status. If you are interested in this, please contact

Teen Art Addresses Gun Violence in Show

The Teens Dream Arts Hub hosted a public art show on October 5th to highlight teen artists work on gun violence.  The show, called "Triggered" brought together teen artists from Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, California, Mexico, and Romania to present their poetry, music, rap, dance, and paintings on gun violence.  The hour long show hosted by Arlington Independent Media was organized by the Teen Ambassadors of the Arts Hub, Sophia Alfred from Maryland and Pablo Guarneros of Mexico, with support from their mentor Almula Camdereli of Virginia. The Executive Producer, Nathan Bynum, interviews the artists after the show in the one hour production of Triggered as part of its program Youth Can Change the World.  The Teens Dream Arts Hub produced the show to call attention to gun violence which is a significant issue under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #16 on peace.  It plans to engage teen artists globally on other SDG topics and encourages interested teens to contact them at for more information.

Teens Dream Winner working in Romania on SDG #4: Quality Education

Hi, my name is Maria Dragoi and I am an 18 year old student in Bucharest Romania who won the Teens Dream video contest for my video on quality education, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4.  Teens Dream flew me to Washington DC to meet my mentor and celebrate my dream. How should I describe in a few words an experience of a lifetime? It was amazing! Meeting with my mentor, Kristine Kuhlman who teaches science in Fairfax County Virginia, was as if the Enlightenment Era came back exclusively to me in 2018. She made me believe that education can develop an innovative approach and she gave me the tools to make it happen. Now I am on my way in creating a web platform so teenagers from Romania can watch creative and fun videos about literary works to be studied for the Romanian Baccalaureate. I want quality education in Romania.  Kristine definitely made me believe in myself.  I am actually doing it and it is great!  See our Teens SDG Hub on Quality Education and connect with Maria and other teens working to make education more interesting!