Swedish teenager and icon of climate activism Greta Thunberg rallied with hundreds of people outside the White House Friday, addressing President Donald Trump, who is one of the only world leaders to openly deny the existence of climate change, calling it a Chinese hoax.
The diverse crowd of mostly young people walked out of school to participate in Thunberg’s climate strike movement, which has seen young people across the globe leave classrooms on Fridays to demand that world leaders take meaningful action to mitigate climate change.
Participants held signs warning of the dangers of inaction on the climate crisis, which scientists say poses an existential threat to human civilization as we know it. After more than an hour of singing and chanting, followed by speeches and musical performances from young activists, Thunberg addressed the crowd, megaphone in hand.
“I just want to say that I’m so incredibly grateful for every single one of you,” she said. “It’s a lot of people and a lot more than anyone I think had expected. This is very overwhelming but never give up. We will continue and I’ll see you next week on September 20.”
September 20 is the date when the weeklong Global Climate Strike is set to begin. Thunberg organized the strike to draw attention to the climate crisis which is increasingly a top issue for American voters and especially for young people like Thunberg who have the most to lose from climate catastrophe.
“Oil money is blood money,” Angelo Lepore, a high school senior from Arlington, Virginia told The Globe Post.
Lepore said he had already been planning to attend the Global Climate Strike when he saw an Instagram post from Thunberg announcing she would be speaking in front of the White House this week. Lepore said his mother is a marine biologist, and he grew up learning to care about animals and the environment.
World renowned climate activist @GretaThunberg joins students striking in the shadow of the White House, the home of the only government that’s not a party to the Paris Accords #ClimateStrike #FridaysForFurture pic.twitter.com/iIlmEOnP4N
— Bryan Bowman (@TGPBryanBowman) September 13, 2019
“I feel like we have to take every opportunity we have to come out and support this issue before it’s too late,” Lepore said. “We have to be proactive instead of reactive about this kind of situation. The earth is our home…we need to protect that and cherish it instead of destroying it with our own greed.”
Lepore was just one of several young activists The Globe Post spoke to, with some as young as 15-years-old, skipping classes to attend the strike.
“I love Greta,” Billie Singer, a freshman at George Washington University told The Globe Post. “She’s so young and she’s so brave to go up to these world leaders who are so much older than she is and she just tells them exactly what’s going on. She inspires us to be here.”
Rather than travel by carbon-intensive air travel, Thunberg opted to travel to the United States by racing boat on a journey lasting two weeks. Since arriving in the U.S. late last month, Thunberg has participated in school strikes and held interviews with prominent media figures like Naomi Klein of The Intercept and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Earlier this week, Trevor Noah hosted Thunberg as a guest on his Comedy Central program, The Daily Show.
“[In the U.S.] it is being discussed as something you believe in or don’t believe in,” Thunberg told Noah. “Where I come from it’s more like it’s a fact.”