Sofia Kianni: Teenage Climate Activist

For most teenagers, starting a business is a daunting goal, thought impossible. At 18 years old, fresh out of high school Sofia Kianni tackled this expectation*, starting her own company, Climate Cardinals.

Climate Cardinals is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on translating media regarding climate change into over a hundred different languages, to make information universally accessible. Her idea and passion for climate change was sparked by a trip to Iran in middle school to visit her extended family, where she could scarcely see stars in the sky thanks to the copious levels of pollution present. After research, she realized how large a problem the Middle East was facing, and expressed her concerns to her relatives, only to discover that they had almost no idea of what climate change was and how it was affecting the world. Since that moment, Kianni knew she had to remedy that, so she began searching for media regarding climate change, but quickly realized there was almost no information on the internet in languages other than English. Thus, she began translating the information into Farsi for her family.

Climate Cardinals delves deeply into translating climate change research, not just translating overarching material and concepts, but specific aspects, such as how the fast fashion is related to and affects climate change. People can’t realize how pressing an issue climate change is if they don’t have the opportunity and the means to educate themselves.The COVID-19 pandemic hit in her senior year of high school, but Kianni did not let that ruin her drive. She joined fellow teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate, where each Friday, Kianni would skip class and join in demonstrations, demanding action from political figures on the topic of climate change. Once she graduated high school, she started Climate Cardinals, gathering hundreds of volunteers from around the world using the network she cultivated through School Strike for Climate. All the while, she was balancing her immense school work and filling out her college applications.

In addition to School Strike for Climate, Kianni became more deeply involved with activism by affiliating with Zero Hour, an organization where impassioned youth would organize protests and demonstrations regarding protecting the environment and taking action. They aim to reach out to officials and inform other youth activists about the perils of climate change, similarly to School Strike for Climate. In this organization, Kianni played a more influential and important role, having higher positions of leadership, which only furthered her devotion towards taking steps to prevent climate change and educate others about it.

Furthermore, as a result of her work with climate focused organizations, like School Strike for Climate and Zero Hour, and Climate Cardinals, Kianni became a teen ambassador for the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. Here, she advises the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, on specific documents to translate and other matters regarding climate change, such as environmental racism. Environmental racism is when environmental hazards such as climate change disproportionately affect minorities, which is what spurred Kianni to start Climate Cardinals in the first place, since countries in the Middle East faced more pollution and had access to less information regarding the environment.