SANTIAGO – Chilean 11-year-old Dante Vergara gave a powerful speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 20. You might know Vergara, Chile’s youngest “bug-ologist,” from his YouTube channel. After his UN speech, many more know him as a solid, international environmental activist.
“My motto is that to protect nature, we must know it [first]. This is how I came to be a young communicator who looks to raise his voice for the environment.” These were the words of 11-year-old Dante Vergara during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, posted to his YouTube channel.
Vergara was invited to the assembly for his work in raising awareness about environmental issues and in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Rights Convention.
Vergara is the first Chilean to attend the assembly; and the only Latin American representative of 2019.
The boy spoke about the role of children in climate change issues, as they will be the heirs and future stewards. “Without a healthy environment, all of our rights become threatened. Climate change has no borders and affects every living creature in the same way. Hence, the problem can only be tackled with everyone’s compromise,”
Dante Vergara, the “Bichólogo”
The Chilean boy was recognized not only for his devotion to nature, but for a very particular area of interest: entomology.
During the ceremony, “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobbie Brown introduced Vergara, explaining his particular passion: “Dante became interested in climate change through his love for entomology. No one knows better than him how small things can have great impact. After listening to him, you will surely agree.”
Vergara first appeared on television in August 2015 in a ChileVisión Noticias report titled “Children surprise and captivate with their grown-up dreams.” In the video, a seven-year-old Vergara spoke of his dreams of being a “bichólogo” (or “bug-o-logist,” in English), as he always felt wild curiosity about insects and small animals. The funny made-up term and Vergara’s passion for the tiny creatures made him the youngest (and cutest) entomologist of Chilean TV at the time.
He was not originally bug fan, however. A passionate investigator at heart, the boy was encouraged by his parents, who helped him create the blog Bichología (or “Bug-o-logy”) in honor of his popular term when he was only four-years-old: “it is a project for all kids to learn about insects and animals,” Vergara told Emol.
On Vergara’s website, he shared his excursions through the hills around Santiago, capturing insects, small reptiles, and amphibians for the audience to see, while making detailed descriptions of their lives and habits. In the videos, Vergara always stood out for being fearless and surprisingly informed at his young age.
The website and his passion were only the start of Vergara’s awareness. As he grew up, he became familiar with environmental issues and challenges, and got acquainted with the world of activism and sustainability through his family, as he is also nephew to Gonzalo Muñoz, who founded the recycling company TriCiclos and is labeled a “Champion” by the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25).
Last year, Chile Today made the following video on Dante Vergara.
Dante Vergara, the Environmental Activist
Soon enough, COP25 noticed Vergara’s contribution to environmental awareness, and named him ambassador to the COP25 in 2019 in Chile (before it moved to Spain), along with public figure Mario Kreutzberger. “There are adults that are indifferent about climate change, … they only think of themselves, their factories, their money, because they will not be living here in 50 years; they will not suffer what my generation will suffer,” said Vergara in Página V.
Seven years have passed since Bichología was created, and the four-year-old bug fan who started it is now an 11-year-old speaking in international forums, joining a growing number of young activists in search of a better future through their lifelong passions.
As quoted by Unicef, Vergara’s goal is simple: “I want all countries to acknowledge our right to a healthy environment: clean air, drinkable water, healthy food, stable weather—to a healthy ecosystem and diversity.”
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.