Global Climate Strike:The Youth Have Spoken


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Various youth led groups within the United States and throughout the rest of the world have grown in prominence as calls for action on climate change intensify.

Emily Mackin

On Sept. 20 and 27, over 7.6 million people left their homes, workplaces, and schools to make noise in the streets to call for attention to climate change. As world leaders met at the United Nations Climate Action Summit to address the issue, civilians from around the globe took it upon themselves to advocate for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and efforts against the planet’s warming atmosphere.

The inspiration for this global strike came after Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, began protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament every Friday last year. In a matter of months, she became the face of a new generation of activists and was recognized as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2019.” As a speaker at the UN Climate Action Summit, Thunberg voiced her anger and frustration with the current state of government.

“You are failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” she said to the leaders at the UN Summit. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”

To highlight the possibility of an environmentally-friendly future, Thunberg also  took a 15-day zero carbon trip across the Atlantic by way of a racing yacht to reach the UN Summit.

“[When I think of climate change,] the first thing that comes to mind is Greta,” junior Brianna West said. “I mean, she’s like such an icon for climate change activism.”

Although Thunberg has been a catalyst for the movement, a number of other youth activists have rallied alongside her and are the unnamed faces that organized the strikes in major cities like New York and Québec.

“I’m really glad to see the youth wanting to be involved. I feel like we do have a stewardship over our planet and we have to make changes,” Spanish teacher Sra. Joan Imms-Geiser said. “Clearly my generation, and the generation following, haven’t done enough. I feel like it’s really important that we listen and look to the youth because change often starts with them.”

Jamie Margolin, 17, is also becoming recognized as a prominent young voice in environmental activism. As one of the founders of the organization Zero Hour, Margolin aims to educate communities about how capitalism, racism, and sexism affect the rapid loss of natural resources and land shifts. On Sept. 18, she spoke to the United States Congress alongside Greta Thunberg.

“By 2030, I will be old enough to run for Congress and be seated right where you guys are sitting now,” Margolin said in her testimony to Congress. “I can’t wait until I’m sitting in your seats to change the climate crisis. You have to use the seats that you have now, because by the time I get there, it’s going to be way too late.”

Isra Hirsi, 16, is co-founder and executive director of the U.S Youth Climate Strike. She addresses how people of color are being disproportionately affected by climate change and how more representation is necessary in the fight.

“I definitely feel that the youth of society is making a larger impact on the strikes,” said senior Abby Carr. “I feel that with more social media influence nowadays the more [climate change] is becoming known as a problem to the people of all ages.”

Uplifting black and indigenous voices is important for these activists who want to include those already facing effects and who have a deep understanding of the Earth from their upbringing. Among them, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 19, is working to prohibit fracking as well as pesticides and coal ash in public parks. According to the Earth Guardians website, he also creates music with his sister as a way to give others inspiration to use art as a “form of resistance to create change.” 

With so many uplifting youth voices leading the movement for climate change, they place pressure on governments to think of future generations and how they will have to deal with the consequences of an already warming planet.

“It makes me want to get involved,” senior Meliya Hart said. “Seeing someone the same age as me, or even younger than me, doing something so big and making a difference makes me want to make a difference too and shows me that I can.”

Despite the lengths to which these youth organized and rallied for weeks leading up the UN Summit, they were let down by the forum itself. Many young activists that attended the event felt like their participation was degraded to a “photo op” rather than a serious and productive meeting.

This wasn’t the first let down that activists like Thunberg and others have received for their efforts. Many young activists have been criticized for their naivety and lack of education, with Thunberg even enduring personal attacks on her Asperger’s Syndrome.

“If you’re going to go after somebody that can’t have any control over that, that’s deplorable, actually,” history teacher Mrs. Jennifer Wlodek said. “However, if you’re going after the young protesters, or any young protester whatsoever, because they’re uneducated, that I think is legit. They have to be educated on what they’re talking about. They themselves have to see both sides.” 

Even with opposition, these young activists aren’t giving up the fight. They inspired a global movement of millions, calling for a collective effort on a global and personal level by people of all backgrounds to make a change for future generations.

“A lot of adults just feel like it’s not a big problem, and a bunch of old people are probably like, ‘I’m not gonna be here, so it’s not my problem,’” senior Claire Cuvo said. “I think that it’s most important that [our generation sets] an example [to] try and bring about change before we’re older and the problem really becomes worse.”