Months After Paradise Fire Triggered Her Asthma, Teen Activist Goes to UN Climate Summit

Activist Alexandria Villaseñor attends a press conference where 16 children from across the world present their official human rights complaint on the climate crisis to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in New York City on Sept. 23, 2019. (Credit: Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty Images)

Activist Alexandria Villaseñor attends a press conference where 16 children from across the world present their official human rights complaint on the climate crisis to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in New York City on Sept. 23, 2019. (Credit: Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty Images)

As fires ravaged the town of Paradise last year, killing 86 people and destroying 15,000 homes in Northern California, smoke seeped south into Davis. Face masks were distributed, but they were not impenetrable, and smoke inhalation began to overwhelm many, including Alexandria Villaseñor whose asthma was triggered.

“I remember being so scared thinking about how if I stood outside for too long, I could collapse and it would be over,” the 14-year-old climate activist said.

Villaseñor had recently moved to New York City from Davis, and was in her home state visiting family when the deadliest fire in California history ignited. She was soon sent back to New York, where she wound up in the emergency room after her asthma continued. There, she began to research wildfires and their connection to climate change.

Less than a month later, she sat outside the United Nations, joining 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in a solidarity protest of global governmental inaction in addressing the climate crisis. Villaseñor said she’s been out there every Friday since for the past 41 weeks — through snow, sleet, rain and the polar vortex — while working to mobilize students throughout the country to join the fight.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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