Xiuhtezcatl is the climate-conscious teenage hip-hop artist whose name you need to know.
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Unilever and the United Nations

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez was 6 years old when he gave his first moving speech.

Let me guess: You're expecting an adorable lecture on "Spongebob Squarepants" or something, right?

Nope. When the young Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced kind of like "shu-TEZ-cuht" in my embarrassing English phonetic approximation of the Nahuatl language) addressed that crowd of 200 people in Boulder, Colorado, cartoons weren't on his mind.


"I got up on stage ... and delivered a message about how we gotta educate kids differently and parents have to raise us differently to understand that it's important to take care of the planet," he tells Upworthy.


6-year-old Xiuhtezcatl speaking truth to power. GIF via tamaragaya/YouTube.

That's right: While most kids his age were still trying to figure out whether Santa Claus is real, Xiuhtezcatl was out saving the world.

That was 2007, and the then-6-year-old had just seen "The 11th Hour," a documentary about global warming produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. "It was intense, it was like a total wake-up call. I was like 'Mom, I gotta talk to people, I gotta speak,'" he said.

Xiuhtezcatl didn't stop there. He could have settled with his 15 minutes of fame — but he built an army instead.

As a young teen, Xiuhtezcatl began to organize his friends into local action committees to get pesticides out of parks as well as enact bans and other regulations on plastic bags, coal-ash drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and other unsustainable practices that had taken over the Boulder community he calls home.

"I had a lot of friends that I knew who were interested in this kind of stuff, that didn't really have a platform to engage," he explains. "And that's what you'll find all over the world."

With the help of his activist parents, Xiuhtezcatl created a nonprofit organization called the Earth Guardians, a self-described tribe of young activists, artists, musicians, and leaders.

"It started off as a simple little thing in our community, you know, just us kids," he explained. "And then all of a sudden social media got a hold of us and now we have 400 crews on 6 continents and it's a global movement."

Since then, Xiuhtezcatl has hung out with Pharrell Williams and been featured in Rolling Stone. He's also addressed the entire United Nations about climate action (we spoke to him back then, too) and, oh yeah, sued the U.S. government over the same.

Not slowing down, this guy. In fact, when I spoke to him during the 2015 Conference of the Parties in Paris, he had to cut our conversation short to go perform a concert for the United Nations at the Grand Palais.

Oh yeah — did I mention that he's also a bomb-ass hip-hop artist?


When I asked him about his music career and the beats he's dropped with his younger brother Itzcuauhtli, Xiuhtezcatl and his friend started to stomp the floor in unison, claps slowly building on the offbeats as they chanted, "We got knowledge / and power / and justifiable rage / we know history / and this is me / writing a new page."

Xiuhtezcatl is no stranger to the power of protest songs.

He witnessed their effectiveness firsthand when he and Itzcuauhtli were performing at the Arise Music Festival in Boulder:

"This guy came up to me afterward and he was talking about how he has 400 acres of land, huge property. He was going to lease it all to the oil and gas industry, on his land. And he says, 'After I saw your performance, I realized that, you know, my role in this movement is to build a hub and a place for solutions, not sell it out to the industry for corporate dollars.' So he converted it into a total sustainable hemp farm to help build and create local solutions."

Xiuhtezcatl is as media savvy as you might expect from someone dubbed the "Anti-Bieber." But when he tells this story, he starts to shake his head, as if he's still in disbelief of his own impact. "It was really exciting to see how us educating people on the stage changes people's minds about a huge decision," he said, in a rare moment where he sounds less like a wizened climate warrior and more like, well, a 15-year-old kid grappling with the true scope of the world.

"That's 400 acres of land," he said. "I mean, how many fracking wells can go on there? How many thousands of barrels of oil and natural gas was not pumped because of that decision? It was cool."

Xiuhtezcatl has already accomplished some amazing things — and we can't wait to see what his future has in store.

Let's make sure there's still an Earth for him and his crew to keep on guarding.

Here are some closing thoughts from Xiuhtezcatl himself, straight from this year's Earth to Paris event in December:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

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