Alexandria Villaseñor is standing in front of the U.S. Capitol and posting Instagram stories like any other teenager.
“Is there any good music that goes with climate action?” the 14-year-old asks a group of activists.
A couple of suggestions later, a song that’s more than twice her age blasts from her phone speakers on abbreviated loop: “It’s the end of the world as we know it… It’s the end of the world as we know it…”
And Alexandria doesn’t feel fine. Over the next few hours, she’ll have meetings with both of New York’s senators to ask them to do what they can to ensure her generation doesn’t experience the actual end of the world because of climate change.
“I notice a lot of politicians are looking at what is politically possible,” she told VICE News in an interview. “But I did think with some politicians I talk to that we're on the same page about how urgent this is.”
Around the globe, young people like Alexandria see the climate crisis as the existential threat to their generation. They’ve skipped school in more than 130 countries to demand policy changes, following the lead of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old from Sweden who is currently sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to attend the United Nations climate talks in September.
As one of the movement’s American organizers, Alexandria has also become a prominent young critic of world leaders’ inaction. Even though nearly 200 countries pledged in the Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures from hitting catastrophic levels, laws and norms aren’t changing quickly enough, and global greenhouse gas emissions are still going up.
When her classmates go back to middle school this fall, Alexandria won’t be joining them. Instead, she’ll take on eighth grade via independent study so that she can lead her global youth network, Earth Uprising, and continue her activism at full blast.
“School is actually really fun for me, and I know a lot of other students, but we are in a world now where students have to sacrifice our education to get attention for what's happening on our planet,” she said.
Video edited by Brittany Ross.