“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. Please consider my generation and future generations, and know that we’re worried about our future on this planet, and we’re looking for adults to help,” said the 10-year old veganism activist Genesis Butler passionately near the conclusion of her TEDx speech. This inspiring speech took place in 2017, titled “A 10-year old’s vision for healing the planet.” In the summer of 2021, four years after the delivery of her TEDx talk, Genesis’s arguments for animal protection have only grown more compelling and inspiring for the younger generation to hear.
The average reader may be surprised at how young this teenage activist is when she delivered the talk, as well as what she has accomplished at such a young age. In fact, the desire to speak up runs in her blood - from her great-granduncle Cesar Chavez. As a well-known Civil Rights activist and well-respected labor union leader, some of Chavez’s greatest accomplishments include serving as the cofounder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers that fought for higher wages and improved working conditions under the grape growers in California. Hearing about the inspirational life of her great-granduncle at an early age, Genesis developed a passion for activism earlier than most of her peers.
As Genesis described herself in her TEDx speech, she stopped eating animal meat at the age of three, and then stopped consuming dairy products one year later, officially becoming vegan at the age of four. According to Genesis, the reason behind stopping consumption of animal meat stems from a conversation with her mother out of curiosity. As a child, she was curious about where her favorite chicken nuggets come from. After hearing the answer from her mother, she immediately removed animal meat from her diet. One year later, upon seeing her mother nurse her baby sister, she once again posed a question out of curiosity with regards to the source of the milk that she drinks everyday. Connecting the source of milk from mother cows to her mother’s action of breastfeeding her sister, Genesis decided to turn vegan and end her consumption of milk. Soon, she was able to persuade her entire family to turn vegan with her.
Fighting for animal rights wasn’t the only motivation behind her desire to promote veganism to more people. Genesis pointed out that veganism may have significant environmental benefits. Some scientific research results suggest that animal agriculture and the natural resources necessary can negatively impact the environment and contribute to climate change. These studies provide statistics suggesting that raising animals for consumption costs a considerable amount of water as well as other natural resources. Researchers also argue that animal agriculture is projected to produce a far larger amount of emissions than energy consumption. Thus, Genesis hopes to persuade her audience that veganism may also benefit the environment for the prosperity of the current generation, and more importantly, future generations to come.
At the incredibly young age of 14, Genesis has achieved much through the brave expression and later amplification of her voice on various platforms. After her TEDx speech in 2017, she consequently spoke at the Switch4Good’s Dairy-Free Athlete Summit in 2018, discussing the importance of activism. Later in 2019, she participated in Farm Sanctuary, where she gave a speech titled “How Adults Can Support Youth Activism; The Importance of Activists Speaking Up for the Animals and for Our Planet.” The accomplishments of young Genesis are certainly not a result of pure luck. In the previously mentioned and many other speeches, she demonstrated professional public speaking and persuasive skills beyond that expected of her age. She was able to send a message of confidence and passion through her fluent speaking and casual use of hand gestures at the age of ten. At a young age, she learned to use evidence and anecdotes to empower her speech and inspire the audience, leading to a great round of applause from a large number of listeners every time she speaks.
Genesis’ hard work certainly did not go unnoticed. She received much attention for her work, as shown by the large number of articles written about her and well-known activism events in which she participated. In one interview, she mentioned her actions beyond speeches - her management of an Instagram account, using which she sends a message to her large number of followers about veganism and animal protection. Even more impressive, she founded a nonprofit named Genesis for Animals. Through this nonprofit, she collects donations to raise money for sanctuaries. She donates the money to aid animal protection efforts when those in need of help reach out to Genesis for Animals. Furthermore, Genesis also strives to promote the passing of animal protection- and veganism-related bills. She has been known to support three bills in California, the SB 1248 Cruelty Free Cosmetics Act, the SB 1487 Iconic African Species Protection Act, and the SB 1138 Plant Based Meal Options.
The efforts of Genesis created a considerable impact in her community. She not only converted her entire family to veganism despite their initial doubts, but also persuaded 7 or 8 friends in school to convert to a vegan diet. Beyond the scope of family and friends, her speeches and actions achieved considerable attention from the public and inspired many debates regarding the extent to which animal agriculture is harming the planet. Despite the great debate around veganism, Genesis certainly contributed much to increased public attention around a vegan diet, animal protection, and environment protection through her influence via speeches, social media accounts, and her nonprofit. Although at a young age, Genesis has already demonstrated her dedication to activism and her devotion to transforming an idea into words, then into action. There is no doubt that she will move on to achieve even greater accomplishments and inspire more people, and the younger generation should certainly view her as a role model for her willingness and ability to use her voice to impact this world.