The youth of the United States take climate change seriously, and they are about to join the rest of the world in showing it. Students from more than 100 countries have indicated that they will miss school on Friday to show lawmakers and world leaders how serious they are about taking action to address climate change.
The Youth Climate Strike is an international protest against climate inaction, and is an offshoot of 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s movement Fridays For Future.
Tomorrow we school strike for the climate in 1769 places in 112 countries around the world. And counting.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) March 14, 2019
Born in the Age of Climate Change
What began as a singular 16-year-old girl protesting in front of her nation’s parliament is now an international climate movement that, on March 15, will have over 1,600 events worldwide to protest climate action.
Thunberg began the movement when she sat before Swedish Parliament in August to let officials know that she is refusing to attend school in protest of adults’ lack of concern for her future. Now she’s an international movement leader and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Thunberg’s lone protest quickly grew traction in Europe and throughout the rest of the world. Soon after Swedish elections in September, her school attendance protest became a weekly occurence on Fridays for Sweden and International communities around the world.
It begins. 1,000s of young people taking to the streets to demand action on #climatechange.
“Once we start to act hope is everywhere so instead of looking for hope look for action. Then & only then hope will come.” @GretaThunberg#climatestrike #klimaatstaking ???? @greenpeaceNL pic.twitter.com/MX0MqY4rQC
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) March 14, 2019
In early February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released their annual climate reports, which showed 2018 as the fourth hottest year on record globally. Last year was also a near-record year for U.S. weather and climate disasters, with all hotter or more disaster-filled years all occurring in the past decade.
The youth that are participating in this movement have experienced the effects of climate change since the day they were born, and are the best people to solve it, according to Maddy Fernands, 16, National Press Director for the Youth Climate Strike.
“I think that’s kind of the gift we have given to society,” Fernands told The Globe Post. “We have experienced this for our entire lives and are also the best people to solve it.”
My heart is so full, we are changing the course of history. https://t.co/gW2cseQWK4
— Maddy Fernands (@MaddyFernands) March 14, 2019
Youth Activists of the US
In the United States, the movement is lead by three teenage climate activists who have been working to make Youth Climate Strike U.S. a successful reality since January. In that short time, these activists have become responsible for hundreds of demonstrations occuring all across the country.
The three co-directors of the movement each have varied histories in climate activism. Isra Hirsi, 16, from Minnesota is the daughter of well-known freshman Congresswoman and Green New Deal policy supporter Ilhan Omar (D-MN); Haven Coleman, a 12-year-old climate activist from Denver, Colorado, has devoted her time to climate change for the last 3 years; and Alexandria Villaseñor, a 13-year-old climate activist in New York City, has spent every Friday for over three months sitting outside the United Nations to protest climate inaction.
— isra hirsi (@israhirsi) March 13, 2019
These activists will participate in the strike in Washington, D.C., which will occur at the U.S. Capitol Building and serve as the kickoff point for the rest of the demonstrations in the United States.
Omar is set to speak alongside the organizers, and according to National Press Director Fernands, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ayanna Presley (D-MA), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) and others have also been invited to attend.
The organizers of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike have faced some challenges along the way, the biggest among them being the timeframe in which they put the strike together.
“Establishing a structure in such a short time period has been a challenge, because our movement was started in late January and to [make the decision] to do this was going to be a really, really long trip,” Fernands said.
When planning for the U.S. Climate Strike began, the national organizers called everyone they could to try and recruit people who had done this kind of organizing before. After a short while though, much of the statewide organizing was of individual initiative to start something in one’s own state, according to Fernands.
“I think that’s one of the most powerful aspects of this movement is that it is a grassroots movement and it will always be a grassroots movement because we are fighting against some of the biggest corporations in the world,” Fernands said.
“I think a lot of people are pouring out their own fear of climate change into this work and that’s why they came to us because they see us an outlet to make a difference.
Our climate crisis needs urgent attention, I am grateful for these young organizers and look forward to joining them on the 15th of March! Hope to see a huge showing of Congressional leaders. pic.twitter.com/kJbbFcUMP8
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 8, 2019
What Children Want
Teachers and officials all over the world have looked down on the youth movement, including U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who claimed students were increasing teachers workloads and wasting lesson time by missing school to protest. Thunberg shot back at the leader on twitter writing, “That may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.”
Students marching internationally are marching for the widespread recognition of climate change as a genuine and immediate threat. Thunberg has now spoken at the World Economic Forum, where she told the global elite they were to blame for the climate crisis as well as at the United Nation’s climate conference COP24 where she told climate negotiators they were not “mature enough to tell it like it is.”
Bella, a School Striker from WA responding to Deputy PM McCormack's comments that kids should stay in school #ClimateStrike
— GetUp! (@GetUp) February 20, 2019
In the United States, students are marching to support The Green New Deal, meaning they are striking in favor of national economic reform as much environmental reform. Other items of their agenda include: halting fossil fuel infrastructure projects, ensuring government decisions are tied to scientific research, including the 2018 IPCC report, declaring a National Emergency on Climate Change, ensuring compulsory comprehensive education on climate change and its impact for grades K-8, preserving public lands and wildlife and ensuring all have access to a clean water supply.
The goal for March 15th’s strike, according to Fernands, is to jumpstart an actual transition to a green economy under the deadlines expressed by science, but the group is aware how ambitious that goal is.
“I think the most important thing that we can do to impose actual change in our political system is by applying political pressure and by uniting and standing in front of politicians and in front of humongous corporations that are pouring billions upon billions of dollars into politics and just having a collective youth voice that cannot be ignored,” Fernands said. “It looks so bad to criticize children and tell them you do not want them to have a future.”