Xiuhtezcatl Martinez describes himself as an environmental activist. He's appealed to the Boulder City Council, spoken at global warming rallies and campaigned for President Barack Obama.
In his free time, he enjoys being in nature, swinging on rope tires, having sword fights and playing with Legos. This year he will be entering his fifth year at Crest View Elementary School, since Xiuhtezcatl is only 11 years old.

He started activism when he was 6, after viewing the environmental documentary "The 11th Hour." As a lover of animals, Xiuhtezcatl said he became concerned with polar bears and tigers, and felt he was being called to help.

"The state of the planet is really intense -- forests are disappearing, mass extinction of animals, pine beetles are dying due to warmer winters," he said. "We have to snap out of it."
Xiuhtezcatl is a member of the Boulder-based organization Earth Guardians, a youth group centered on environmental activism.

Tamara Roske, 43, Xiuhtezcatl's mother, started Earth Guardians in 1993. At the time, she was living in Maui and noticed several environmental problems plaguing the Hawaiian island -- such as sugar cane burning and endangered species increasing -- and felt like something needed to be done.
Four years later she brought the organization to Boulder.

Roske's said her generation is concerned with having more and making more, and they weren't taught to respect Earth. Her goal now is to show children the state of the planet they are inheriting.
"They hear their parents talking about it, but they're not given an outlet to express that concern they have," Roske said. "It's amazing to see the impact that these kids can have."

The guardians have fans in high places, like Boulder Mayor Susan Osborne, who's been a supporter ever since she saw them at a City Council meeting two years ago. "When they come to speak at council, they pretty much always get what they want because they're so articulate and thoughtful," Osborne said.

Amaya Baccallieri, 12, and Jasmine Gatt, right, of Boulder environmental group Earth Guardians, toss weeds into a pile as they clean up the playground at Foothills Community Park last week. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL ) 

Amaya Baccellieri, 12, an Earth Guardian member for two years, said the youth has a big voice. But she thinks that adults listen to children partly because of their charm.
"First of all, it's the cute factor," Baccellieri said. "Then they realize if kids are talking about it, it's important."

The Guardians have assembled on a number of topics, including closing coal operations at the Valmont Power Plant and also filing a lawsuit against the State of Colorado for contributing to global warming by polluting the atmosphere.

The active problem-solving is one of the qualities Osborne admires about the group.
Last summer, the Guardians appealed to the City Council for city workers to stop spraying pesticides in community parks. The council listened to the concerns and terminated use of the chemicals.
But the Guardians went a step further and adopted Foothills Community Park to "walk the talk," as Xiuhtezcatl puts it. The group maintains the upkeep of the park by pulling weeds and showing that pesticides are not necessary.

It's refreshing for Osborne to see a group step up and fix a problem.
"I love their energy," she said. "It's not just talking and complaining, which we get a lot of. It's raising issues and actively solving the problems."

But not all the youth have been treated with such understanding. Alex Budd, 18, has been involved in activism since he was 13, when he participated in Al Gore's climate project to spread environmental awareness.

He said that, over the years, he's received a lot of negative feedback and feels as though he's running up against a wall. "I'm still young enough to be called naive," Budd said. "We call it passionate, but people see it as being manipulated."

Roske, as the founder and mother to some of the Earth Guardians, said she's never been accused of swaying the kids.  She said this is because she allows the children to choose the issues important to them, stays behind the scenes and only gives help when needed. "The kids just do it, and I support them," Roske said. "I help to empower them to find their own voices."

But Roske knows the importance of letting the kids be kids, and she keeps it fun by hosting movies nights and sleepovers. She also encourages the children to incorporate their hobbies into activism, such as her 7-year-old son, Itzcuauhtli, who loves to rap about environmental change.

For most of the Earth Guardians, educating the future generation is their mission. They've presented to several schools and are building a multimedia tool kit for those wanting to get involved.
Budd said he wants to give kids a choice to be active or not by letting them know the issues.

As for Xiuhtezcatl, before he got involved, he said he was having a good time being a kid and wasn't concerned. After he learned about the environmental problems, he chose activism.
"I'm glad when I have kids," Xiuhtezcatl said, "I can tell them I didn't just sit around and do nothing."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Amanda Moutinho at 303-473-1361 or amanda@dailycamera.com.