They are barely in their twenties, but they already know about urgent issues, which are vital for human survival, and not because they learned about them but because they have experienced them. And they are not willing to wait for solutions to come.
It’s time to make room for the so-called Generation Z, who are already acting. They are studying, training, volunteering and helping educate children and adults. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has become the most recognized face of this generation in the last year, but there are many like her in Puerto Rico. And many of these young Puerto Ricans prioritize civic action over entertainment, convinced that they cannot wait to become leaders in the future in order to take action, they have to act now.
They come from public or private schools or homeschool. In those spaces, as well as in non-profit organizations, they have been part of – or created – platforms to raise awareness, particularly, about the risks of climate change.
For them, climate change represents a critical present and an uncertain future but they also know that it can be different and better. That's why they act.
They have suffered or been very close to the ravages of poverty, which affects more than half of them. They have suffered the inefficiency of a government hijacked by fanaticism, unable to provide a quality education that reflects the reality in which they live, that challenges and inspires them. They know that part of the country and the planet they inherit is, to a large extent, the result of the conformist passivity of previous generations. And their action represents a wake up call for a society that is running against the clock.
They promote affirmative responses to food security from their platforms. Their lifestyles, as well as their production and consumption practices, are conscious and responsible. They run their own gardens and teach how to set up and run school or community gardens, and how to recycle and reduce the environmental footprint. They promote the implementation of energy policies based on renewable sources, the preservation of natural resources and orderly planning. And they choose careers that allow them to work for those solutions or design new ones to face challenges that older generations left them.
Across the island, these young voices advocate for inclusion and social justice. They have experienced the value of community unity and self-management, especially at the most critical time for the island.
It is encouraging that this generation is mostly free of partisan interests and they make their way as a unifying force. They demand to be heard, not with the tolerance, but with respect, the respect for the ones who are right. We should listen to them.
With them, the political class is challenged to live up to the occasion and transform itself or give way to new generations. They demand a responsive and transparent government, to the point of becoming the protagonists of the most significant shock to the government in decades. They know because they grew amid multiple crises, who caused them and why. They are saying enough is enough and recognize themselves as the "Yo no me dejo" (‘I’m not going to let you do this to me) generation.
They will not allow it and it is time to support them by removing obstacles so they can participate in decisions and develop their proposals. It is also time to learn from them and draw on the knowledge of previous generations for their projects.
After all, they decided to start now, before their problems get worse. They demand respect for their rights to participate in a change of direction leading to better living conditions and to enjoy. It´s time to let them participate so they can leave their grandchildren a world better than the one they found.