My climate story 

My name is Sofía Gutiérrez, I am 18. I am a high school student from Colombia. Since I was a toddler, I’ve been extremely sensitive to seeing others in pain. I tend to cry a lot when I see a turtle tangled in a plastic bag, or when I see people suffering from hunger or living in the streets. I couldn’t tolerate that, I felt the necessity to do something about it. Back in 2017, when I was in ninth grade, for my personal project I chose to create ocean life consciousness among the people I knew and everyone I could reach. I began my research with the science data of plastic creation and its impacts. That’s when I realized the earth was in extreme danger. I continued my project creating a school newspaper with information about plastic in the ocean. Thanks to that, in my house the daily habits started to change significantly. 

I stopped with my project outside of school due to mental health issues. It wasn’t until last year in August, when part of my country’s rainforest was being burned down, that I found shelter in climate activism. That is when I created a movement to connect youth with NGO’s, so they’d knew how to be part of the change. Thanks to the movement, I started going to climate strikes, and getting to know the climate activists in my city. I helped organize three climate strikes in my city.  

My country has some of the highest inequality rates in the world, and Colombians were tired of it. In October, we faced a social crisis that held endless protests across the country, but specially in my city – Bogotá. Social causes from education to environment, fought together to demand just action from the government. I was part of some of the protests. I suffered from police abuse. And that is when I understood that my country could not move forward in environmental matters, if we did not even have education.

Being part of the massive protests in my country made me realize the magnitude of the relation between climate change and social issues, as I was able to listen first hand to the people that suffer first the climate change impacts in my country. And I was aware that violence in my country has built the society I live in -from the conquest to the armed conflict. But, it was not was until I decided to speak that I feared for my life, and I knew what I was getting myself into. I may have the privilege to live in the city and have some kind of “security” that social leaders lack, but with that privilege I decided to raise my voice, for all of those that had died doing the same thing in my country. I grew up with the stories of my granny telling me how she and her family had to move to the city so they wouldn’t get killed due to the violence in my country. I don’t want to continue telling the same story. That’s why I raise my voice, so defending the lives in my country doesn’t mean you have to put yours at risk

That is when I took a different path with my activism, I started listening, and then I had the chance to be part of three national dialogues with my government regarding fracking, the Declaration of Climate Emergency and educational matters. I introduced myself to politics, putting my fears of public speaking aside, I worked with my local and national government, and I decided that I would fight for the access to quality environmental education.

Nowadays, I am part of a youth organization called Pacto X el Clima, where I created the environmental educational program, and since last year in November I have been teaching workshops to different audiences (specially youth). With my activism I look forward to make a change in the society I live in, and with that make a better world out of it, that is why I joined Fridays For Future, to keep learning how to make a change, and to tell my country’s story.