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U honors youth climate activist with award

U recognizes Aniya Butler with the 2022 Award in Environmental Humanities.

Close up photo shows Aniya Butler smiling at the camera with a white background. The University of Utah’s Environmental Humanities graduate program will award youth climate activist, poet and environmental justice organizer Aniya Butler with the 2022 Utah Award in the Environmental Humanities. Butler, a 15-year old, Black, climate activist and anti-racism advocate from Oakland, CA, will receive the award on Tuesday, March 22 at 6 p.m. in the university’s Alumni House. The event — in partnership with the U’s Collective Day of Action —  is free and open to the public.

Butler’s work with Youth vs. Apocalypse and her climate strike activism focus on broadcasting the previously silenced voices of people of color and of youth. Butler models an intersectional approach to activism that connects climate change, literature and social justice. Her work inspires diverse communities to recognize their power and act in a world that has told them to be silent.

“Butler’s work contributes to the growing momentum of environmental justice in America,” said Jeffrey McCarthy, director of the Environmental Humanities program. “This award will acknowledge the voice of a teen and thus advance Aniya’s mission of making the next generation heard.”

The Utah Award in the Environmental Humanities celebrates environmental leadership and expression. The award was created to honor those who solve the planet’s environmental problems using humanities tools like creative expression, popular art forms, scholarly research or advocacy. Past recipients of the award have been Rebecca Solnit, Amitav Ghosh and Jonathan Franzen.

“This year, it is especially satisfying to celebrate a young person at the beginning of her important, inspiring work for justice,” said McCarthy.

The environmental humanities graduate program is housed in the College of Humanities and is the country’s first master’s degree in the field. The program positions talented students to study climate change, resilience, advocacy and solutions to environmental problems. Environmental humanities encourages creative and scholarly exchanges as it trains the next generation of environmental thinkers and leaders.