Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 16-year-old climate change activist who’s spoken before the United Nations on environmental policy, will be one of the speakers at the Climate Action forum on Whidbey Island this month. KC Golden, policy director at Seattle’s Climate Solutions, is the other. The forums will be held March 24 at the Coupeville High School Performing Arts Center and March 25 at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley. Both will start at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Photo provided by Earth Guardians

Climate lecture series brings two prominent speakers to Whidbey

Retired Oak Harbor physician Marshall Goldberg likens Xiuhtezcatl Martinez to a rock star. Securing Martinez for two speaking engagements on Whidbey Island was no small feat.

“Another year from now, we’d never get him,” Goldberg said.

Martinez, a 16-year-old climate change activist and hip-hop artist from Boulder, Colo., will join KC Golden, a senior policy adviser at Climate Solutions in Seattle, for two free public appearances this month as part of the Trudy Sundberg Lecture Series.

Speaking on “Climate Action: What Now? Reports from the Front Lines,” the climate advocates will appear Friday, March 24 at the Coupeville High School Performing Arts Center, and Saturday, March 25 at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. Both events will start at 7 p.m. and will be followed by question-and-answer sessions.

Martinez also will visit South Whidbey High School to meet with youth March 24.

“These two climate leaders bring messages that speak to both young people and adults about the current state of climate action — or inaction,” said Goldberg, who chairs the lecture series planning committee. “Both of our speakers are on the front lines of climate action and will have a lot to say about what’s working — and what the future holds.

“What makes this different is we have two generations coming together maybe with some different perspectives.”

The lecture series honors the memory of Trudy Sundberg, a beloved Oak Harbor High School teacher and civic activist who died in 2013. Her family, friends and the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation established the Trudy Sundberg Memorial Fund to underwrite a lecture series in her name that reflected her interests and to promote lifelong learning.

The idea was to bring one notable, recognized speaker each year to Whidbey, or in this case, a powerful pair.

Last May, Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award winner Hedrick Smith gave a lecture that drew an overflow crowd at WICA. The following night in Coupeville, his talk drew at least 300 people, according to Goldberg.

Goldberg’s “rock star” label on Martinez is attributed to both his youth and international recognition as a front-lines climate activist.

Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced Shoe-Tex-Caht) Martinez, a trilinguist whose father is Aztec Indian, has been speaking around the world since the age of 6 about the need to protect the planet.

He is the youth director of Earth Guardians, an organization of activists, artists and musicians from around the world founded by his mother in 1992. Three times, Martinez has spoken before the United Nations.

He also is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the then-Obama administration for failing to adequately protect his generation’s future against climate change.

“He’s writing a book. He’s going to be in a documentary with Leonardo DiCaprio this spring. I could go on and on,” Goldberg said of Martinez, who was featured in Rolling Stone two years ago.

Golden has been a leader in the national climate movement for decades and was policy adviser to a number of Pacific Northwest governors and mayors. In 2012, he received the Heinz Award for Public Policy for his lifetime achievement as a climate advocate.

“It really fits with our civic engagement initiative — bringing people together to talk about topics that are important where there are many different view points,” said Mary Campbell, librarian at the Oak Harbor Library. “Landing the two noted speakers on climate change at a rate the foundation could afford was in part due to some fortunate connections, Goldberg said.

Kim Drury, who is part of the planning committee for the lecture series, used to work for the City of Seattle and has known Golden for many years.

Kathryn O’Brien, part-time teacher at South Whidbey High School who also works at the Clinton Library, became friends long ago in Maui with Martinez’s mother, Tamara Roske. At the time, O’Brien was a single mother managing a botanical garden in Hana, one of the more isolated communities in Hawaii.

“At the time I was there, there were not many white people,” O’Brien said. “It was an amazing place, one of the most beautiful on earth. I was really lonely. It took like six months until anyone would even talk to us, basically.”

But then someone did.

“It was Xiuhtezcatl’s mother and her family who took us in,” O’Brien said. “She became one of my best friends on the island.

“She was amazing. And that’s when she started Earth Guardians. It was right at that time. Xiuhtezcatl was not even born yet.

“We used to sit around on the beach and sing songs she had written. They were always songs about the earth and songs of fighting for the environment and being out in nature. It was beautiful.”

As part of the planning committee to line up speakers for the Trudy Sundberg Lecture Series, O’Brien thought about some of the climate issues facing the earth and her mind drifted back to her old friend and the “amazing being” Roske’s son had grown up to be.

O’Brien said she hadn’t talked to her in 19 years. But Roske agreed that her son should be coming to Whidbey.

“What makes this work is the connections that people have,” Goldberg said.

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