Francisco Vera Manzanares is known in his native Colombia for his environmental campaigns and his defense of children's rights.
The fight for the environment is my way of life.
We, the children, have many ideas to contribute to this world, and they must hear us.
I am the founder of the environmental movement Guardianes de la Vida and recently Goodwill Ambassador for the European Union.
I have been an environmentalist for as long as I can remember, and no menace will stop me from protecting the earth.
Thanks to the influence of my mother and my aunt, the animal kingdom first sparked my attention. Seeing them defend the animals as they did motivated me to take action.
The green environment in Villeta, Colombia, was also a key factor.
I remember that the first protest I organized was against bullfighting.
I was a little child facing a business that made many influential people uncomfortable.
Then, I did a viral video to defend the life of a duck.
Tough life as a defender
Over the years, my interest led to environmental issues, and in 2019, I founded Guardianes, de la Vida.
In a short time, we grew to more than 200 children and young people, between three and 20 years old, spread throughout the country to demand action from the Colombian government in the fight against climate change.
We organize activities with experts, and we talk about the issues on our climate and environmental agenda to raise awareness.
We do strikes, meetings, podcasts: we use the most effective communication channels to reach more audiences.
Every Sunday, I have an environmental news space where a thousand people worldwide connect. There, we discuss earth pollution and how to take action towards a greener future.
I am so passionate that I want this project to grow.
As I learn about environmental issues, I am increasingly disappointed. The environmentalists do not have to be motivated by sadness but by hope.
People need to know that change is possible despite the bleak outlook.
The unconditional support I receive from social media has been a considerable boost.
It is nice to feel accompanied. But there are also harmful people.
Some time ago, I published a video where I urged the government to improve the internet connection for online studying all over the country.
Some people insulted me and said ugly things to me. I even received a death threat.
Iván Duque, president of Colombia, intervened in the matter and publicly promised to find those responsible. After that, the UN hand-delivered me a letter congratulating my pioneering work.
I never felt afraid or hesitant to move on. These things do not make me doubt. This menace does not stop me.
Unfortunately, I had another violent episode during a broadcasting conference.
About 20 adults tried to sabotage it, insulting me during the talk. Those people should be ashamed and embarrassed.
Immediately afterward, Patricia Llombart, ambassador of the European Union in Colombia, appointed me Goodwill Ambassador of the European Union for my leadership in favor of the environment, the defense for life, and the fight against the climate crisis.
This type of recognition makes me proud. It gave me a lot of strength and commitment.
Listen to the children
Greta Thunberg is the best known young environmentalist, but there are more, such as Licypriya Kangujam in India, who I also admire.
With our voices, we make our message louder.
People are not so open to receiving comments or opinions from a child. I don’t understand why, but I think society is very backward from that perspective.
Adults still do not listen to the children; instead, they insult them. For me, it is deplorable to see how some adults behave. This society will not progress until we pay attention to young people and children.
The phrase that says that children are the future is real, but they have to take us into account.
I started reading at the age of five, and I spoke well only at six. Many say that I am a genius, but I feel like an average child.
I am a lucky boy.
My parents allowed me to be who I am, as an activist and an environmentalist.
In my free time, I play a lot of Minecraft or Fortnite. There are days that I spend glued to the computer. I also like to swim.
But what I’m most passionate about is broadcasting stories on Saturdays.
I want not only to learn but also to transmit and share what I read with my followers.
I believe that the only way to build society is through difference, respect, and dialogue.
When I grow up, I want to be an astrophysicist.
Regardless of what I studied, I would also like to be a politician and become president of Colombia.
On Jan. 15, Francisco Vera Manzanares received a death threat from an anonymous Twitter account after posting a video urging the government to improve the internet connection of children studying online.
The boy is the founder of Guardianes de la Vida, which has more than 200 members and fights against climate change.
The UN hand-delivered a letter to Francisco congratulating him on his pioneering work in the South American country. It is not unusual for assassins to target environmental activists.
According to the environmental program Somos Defensores, in the first semester of 2020, 95 murders were registered, which increased 61% compared to 2019. Besides, 48% of those homicides occurred during the period of a strict confinement.
The Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz) announced that until Dec. 5, there were 79 murders of environmentalists in the country, where assassins killed 340 people.