Genesis Butler: 12 Year-Old Plant-Based Activist
Genesis Butler is on a mission to change the world — and she hasn’t even started high school.
The plant-based activist made waves when, at age 10, she became one of the youngest people to give a TEDx Talk. Now 12, she has founded her own nonprofit, and joined other celebrities in urging the Pope to give up animal products for Lent.
Finding Her Voice
If activism seems to come naturally to Butler, that may be because she has some powerful role models. Civil rights activist and labor organizer, Cesar Chavez, is her great grand uncle. Growing up hearing stories about Chavez helped inspire her to speak out, says Butler, who lives in Long Beach, California. “It influences my confidence, because I know I can make a big difference.”
While animal welfare is still a top concern — her nonprofit, Genesis for Animals, supports animal sanctuaries — as she’s grown older and learned more about animal agriculture, she’s also increasingly focused on environmental issues.
“I started to do research and figured out that animal agriculture has such a big impact on our planet,” she says. “I decided that becoming an environmentalist is something I should do.”
"We all have voices, and we really need to start using them."
Protecting Our Wild Living Planet
In her 2017 TEDx talk, Butler spoke about how she learned that raising animals for food is a major cause of climate change, loss of wildlife, pollution and drinking water shortages.
Butler believes she’s not an outlier, and that more young people are interested in learning about and are willing to go plant-based. “I think that kids are very open… sometimes it’s the parents who aren’t open,” she says. “I have so many friends who would like to become vegan, but their parents aren’t supportive. The parents think they can’t do it, and they discourage them.”
A New Generation of Changemakers
But for young people, she says, the arguments for a plant-based lifestyle are compelling. “All kids care about animals –– they have compassion.,” she says. “I also think kids care about the environment. I think kids realize that if this is a way to reverse climate change, why not do it?”
The climate crisis is a top concern for Butler, who was especially alarmed after learning of a U.N. report that warned the world has only 12 years to act to limit the worst impacts of global overheating. “Our planet is getting destroyed so quickly,” she says. “We don’t have time to wait.”
Young people have an important role to play, she says. “They’re really raising awareness on climate change and the environment, because they’re realizing how their planet’s being destroyed, and if they don’t do anything about it, who will?” she says. “Kids are starting to do something about it.”
“I think we really have to put ourselves out there. We can make such a big difference. We all have voices, and we really need to start using them,” Butler says.
Plant-Based Protip: Reinvent Comforting Classics
Butler realizes that many people may have the desire to eat plant-based, but are held back because they fear it will be too difficult, or that they won’t get to enjoy their favorite foods. She shares tips like, “shop in the colorful section of the grocery store” for fresh produce, find recipes on the internet and ask for plant-based options at restaurants. For many young people, all it takes is learning they can still enjoy their favorite foods, she says (Butler still loves “chicken” nuggets).
For Butler, who likes to cook, that favorite dish is vegan mac-n-cheese. For her go-to recipe, she blends carrots and potatoes, and mixes in nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to make a cheese sauce, then adds whole-wheat macaroni for a creamy, gooey, comforting dish.
What’s next for this plant-based powerhouse? Butler says she’s looking forward to summer vacation. “I’m just going to hang out a lot, hang out with friends, and have sleepovers,” she says.