A remarkable 11 year old’s vow of silence

An 11 year old indigenous environmental activist has taken a vow of silence until world leaders finally act to effectively deal with climate disruption. This young man is not just any 11 year old. He and his 14 year old brother are well-known eco-hip-hop artists who perform at events around the world. In just a few weeks his creative approach to his spiritual despair has impacted tens of thousands of people. And in my imagination, it could blossom into a heartful global shock-wave of silent children, upending business as usual everywhere – as was envisioned by a 1987 political fantasy movie….


I have been deeply moved by the action of an 11 year old – Itzcuauhtli (Eat-Squat-Lee) Roske-Martinez who stopped talking Oct ober 27, 2014 “until world leaders take action on Climate Change”. Itzcuauhtli makes it clear that he thinks all of us are at least as important as world leaders for climate action – if not more so – than officially recognized world leaders. I will be joining him and thousands of others being silent on December 10 for the same purpose.


But there’s a bigger possibility pulsating behind this simple act by one child. I think a major reason his action struck me so deeply was a movie I saw 25 years ago, “Amazing Grace and Chuck”.  In it Chuck, a 12 year old Little League baseball star pitcher, is so upset about the possibility of nuclear war – for some of the same reasons that Itzcuauhtli and I are upset about the potential impact of climate disruption – that he stops playing baseball, an act which reverberates throughout his small Midwestern town, with small but potent ripples reaching national media. A growing number of professional sports players and teams soon join his protest by stopping playing their sports. When his biggest ally, basketball star Amazing Grace, is assassinated in a plane explosion, Chuck takes a vow of silence like Itzcuauhtli’s “until there are no more nuclear weapons”. He inspires millions of children around the world to join him. Pressure builds rapidly for the US and Russian leaders until they finally sign a major disarmament pact. (Here are some video clips.)

The movie was panned by most professional reviewers as far-fetched (with an interesting exception being Siskel and Ebert who took it seriously). Nevertheless, it had a small but passionate following who saw that something here, while fictional, was totally possible and profoundly hopeful. (For example, I thought to myself: You can’t STOP someone from not speaking!) And then suddenly today Itzcuauhtli – who had never heard of “Amazing Grace and Chuck” – shows up in real life actually doing it and inspiring thousands of others to join him in silence (with varying levels of commitment). The coincidence struck home with me, and the tears of hope came back..

I was also moved by Tamara Rose Roske’s – Itzcuauhtli’s mother’s – description of the despairing epiphany that resulted in his vow of silence (see below).

Itzcuauhtli says “Join me in this vow until world leaders: 1) Agree on and implement a Global Climate Recovery Plan to get us back to a safe zone of 350 ppm; 2) Mass[ively] reforest the planet to help absorb all our excess carbon and; 3) Support renewable energy solutions to replace the dirty fossil fuel industry.”

To that he could well have added “become vegetarians” or at least “publicly reduced their meat consumption” since the profound role of meat production in disrupting climate is becoming painfully obvious.

I invite you to explore this remarkable kid – and his 14 year old brother Xiuhtezcatl, both talented eco-hip-hop artists who perform at events around the world – and their family and youth organization Earth Guardians

May you never be the same…


PS: For some, participating in this may be an antidote to their “climate depression” – an increasingly recognized phenomenon.

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My name is Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez and I am a 11 year old indigenous environmental hip hop activist from Boulder Colorado. I have been working with our organization Earth Guardians on climate change and other issues since I was 7 years old, because I am concerned about the kind of world I am going to be left with.

I just got back from two months of traveling to perform at climate change and environmental conferences across the U.S. At these conferences I’ve been listening to some of the top experts and scientists talking about the fact, that its game over for the planet if carbon is not capped in the next year. We have already reached a tipping point and are feeling the impacts of climate change across the planet. Oceans are acidifying, eco systems are collapsing and we are in the midst of the greatest mass extintion since the dinosaur age. Weather patterns are changing and we are seeing bigger storms and disasters across the planet, displacing people and destroying homes!

Now as a 11 year old boy listening to this information, it hit me hard. I have been hearing the facts for years in my line of work, but this time was different! Some of my heroes that I have crossed paths with and have spoken at the same events in in the last year, like Van Jones, Bill Mckibben, David Orr, Vandana Shiva, James Hansen are saying we are at a crossroads and have to act NOW!

I was sitting in the Newark Airport in New York after performing at the Omega Conference with my family getting ready to return to Colorado and I thought what does it matter anyway if I go to school or go to college and learn all this stuff, if there is not going to be a world worth living in! A world where there will be more and more climate refugees from rising sea levels and people suffering from draughts and floods and famine. That’s when I thought, I have to do something drastic to change the outcome of our future? What can I do as one person to help change the direction we are headed!

Then it came to me to take a VOW of silence to inspire all of YOU to speak up for FUTURE GENERATIONS! It is the hardest thing I have ever done and I need you to become a leader by joining me NOW! Sign up on our Take Action page!

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by Tamara Rose Roske

Itzcuauhtli has taken a vow of silence until leaders take action on climate change. It has been a very emotional time for him and for me as a mother witnessing his process. In New York after the Omega conference we were sitting in the Airport to come home. Itzcuauhtli had sat in and listened to a lot of the experts like Bill McKibbens, Van Jones, David Orr speak at Omega on our climate crisis and about how we have passed a tipping point and have to cap carbon this year to avoid the worst! Van Jones said he was between heartbreak and hope and actually teared up a few times during his talk. Itzcuauhtli said mom why does it matter anyway if I go to school and do all this stuff if we are going to just be left with a planet that is falling apart, where people are dying from climate disasters and oceans are rising, animals are disappearing and eco systems are collapsing! Why does it matter?

It was his moment, where he connected with something very deep inside himself and he announced to Xiuhtezcatl and me that he was going to quit speaking, take a vow of silence, go on a talking strike until world leaders take action on climate change.

We arrived back in Colorado that night and he already began his strike! He was so scared when he went to school the next day with a piece a paper he showed in the office announcing he was on a talking strike. He went class to class showing his paper to the teachers and finally his councilor called me and said all the teachers were calling him and that they don’t have the right to tell him not to do what he is doing, but they don’t want it to effect his class work.

He came home and he had me take him to the store to buy some tshirts to write his message on and a small write on wipe off board, so he didn’t have to use paper . He went to school the next day and all of his classmates were curious about why he wasn’t speaking so he wrote on his board explaining what he was doing.

In the middle of the day he sent me a text and he said MOM, I have a crew. He came home and wrote that five kids in his grade were going to take a vow to silence with him, so he made them all tshirts and went and bought them with his own money a small write on wipe off board. He went back to school the next day and all of his friends announced that their parents were in NO WAY going to let them do that and that it wouldn’t change things anyway! Itzcuauhtli was so disappointed. The school called and said he was in the office and said he had a fever and I needed to pick him up.

I picked him up and he wrote he wasnt sick and told me what happened with the kids, and then he set there in the car crying silent tears. It was heart breaking. His neice Trinity who had also joined him in silence also started talking when she came home and said this is way too hard. This also hit him pretty hard, but he shook it off and continues his strike!

In New York he vowed to only use his voice if he was rapping to edcuate people about our environmental and climate crisis so we will hear his sweet little voice at a Bioneers for the first time next weekend here in Boulder!

I would like to ask you and all of our friends and all of their friends if you could support him and help spread his message. He had Xiuhtezcatl and I help make him a simple website yesterday the URL is www.ClimateSilenceNow.org and there are ways he is asking for your support on the contact page!

The Paris UN conference is coming up in December of 2015 and he hopes to inspire other youth and adults around the world to join him and send a message loud and clear to the world leaders that this is their chance to agree on a climate recovery plan to protect the futures of the children that will inherit the Earth!

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Here is his 14-year old brother’s recent post on the EarthGuardians FB page

As a family we have come to a decision that the public school environment is not serving the incredible spirit and best interest of my little bro Itzcuauhtli. My mom had a very frustrating call with the principle who said the teachers are frustrated by his talking strike and that maybe she should consider home schooling him which she highly agrees would be best. She has never been happy about us being in the public school system but it was something we wanted to experience so she supported us. He and I both home schooled for the first few years of our lives but we wanted to check it out.

It was actually one of the greatest gifts I could have been given because it helped me understand the dysfuntion within the school system and how we are not supported and honored as individuals but put into a box to become machines to fullfill the American dream. I have been able to incorporate the lessons I have learned there into my messaging and advocate for a new way of educating and empowering young people in this changing world that we are being left with.

There are alot of amazing teachers especially here where we live but they have to conform to a system to make sure we fit into a status quo which is determined by our grades and being able to do the exact same thing as thousands of other students. It doesn’t support our creative individuality and we spend our day racing from 45 minute class to class stressed out and then 2 hours of homework on top of that. If we don’t change our educational systems we really won’t have a chance because kids growing up in a stressful system are learning to make the same mistakes past generations have made.

My brother is holding strong after three weeks of not speaking and is riding a wave of feeling very empowerd by all of the incredible people who are rising up to address climate change and the feeling of despair because of the crisis we face as a global community. Please join with him on Dec 10th for a talking stike that will empower us all to be leaders and to send a message to the so called leaders that we are rising up to defend our future! if you haven’t signed up at www.climatesilencenow.org to join us by spreading his powerful message please do so NOW!. #climatesilencenow #ourfuturematters #earthguardians

In my brothers sacrifice, we are all reminded that there is power in our silence and when broken can become an amplifier to unite us and spread our message across boarders! Our future depends on it!! I am so proud of him!


Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440

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