Students Around the World Go On #YouthClimateStrike

Young activists in New Jersey and New York join those around the world, skipping school and organizing and attending events to demand accountability and action on climate change.

Around the world on Friday, students skipped classes and held rallies and marches, demanding to be heard about the issue they say most impacts their future climate change. The global #YouthClimateStrike was inspired by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg who last August stood alone outside of parliament to protest the inaction of her country's politicians on climate change

Students at Montclair (NJ) High School walked out of school for a #YouthClimateStrike.

In Montclair, NJ, high school students walked out of the classroom buildings to the amphitheater on campus and cheered speakers discussing the urgency of the issue.

"We strike globally because of the lack of governmental action to fix climate change," said student Saumaya Schneider, who was one of the organizers of the Montclair High School event.

Not far away in Morristown, people gathered in front of the town hall building. The event began with what was meant to be a simple organizational instruction but summarized the entire day when a high school student took the microphone and asked the adults to move to the back and allow the young people in attendance to step forward.

When the speakers began officially, they listed the reasons for being there to pressure local, state and federal government take action and gain media attention to their cause and their demands, which included the Green New Deal, a halt in fossil fuel infrastructure projects, policy decisions based on scientific research, a national emergency declared on climate change and, "compulsory, comprehensive education on climate change and its impact."

Morristown, NJ, #YouthClimateStrike

"Career politicians, corporations, and billionaires with savvy PR teams will tell us we are being too demanding, too unrealistic," one of the speakers, 16-year-old Eden Summerlin told the crowd. "They will tell us we are being too loud, too disruptive, and too disobedient. They will tell us that we are disturbing the social order, asking for things we will not receive and wasting their time complaining about issues we don’t understand.

"In return, I would like to ask them, why are you complicit when too much is being demanded of the earth and her fragile ecosystem? Why do you stay quiet when Indigenous lands are being stolen and poisoned yet you have no problem speaking loudly over the voices of Indigenous people? Why do you knowingly disrupt the lives of low-income black and brown people with air pollution and toxic water supplies? ...

"Why do you think it’s acceptable for you to destroy our health and disobey the demands of our community, for you to waste our time with smiles and empty promises that you’ll behave better tomorrow? We are not asking our leaders for much. We are asking for the bare minimum.”

Across the Hudson River in New York City, hundreds of young activists gathered at Columbus Circle and marched up Central Park West to the American Museum of Natural History where they held a die-in. While the rally early in the event, which began in the shadow of Trump Tower, included some political chants opposed to the president, it was a bipartisan bashing once they got to the steps of the museum. Young people dressed as president Donald Trump and fellow Republican senator Mitch McConnell, as well as Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer were there to be in the museum to be with the other dinosaurs, speakers said.
 

From left: #YouthClimateStrike in NYC marches up Central Park West to the American Museum of Natural History; Sign at #YouthClimateStrike in Columbus Circle in New York City.


The event was organized by one of the Climate Strike U.S. co-leaders, Alexandria Villasenor, who has been holding her own Friday climate protests at the United Nations for months.

Villasenor was one of the global youth leaders who joined Thunberg in writing an editorial that ran in The Guardian today.

"These strikes are happening today from Washington DC to Moscow, Tromsø to Invercargill, Beirut to Jerusalem, and Shanghai to Mumbai because politicians have failed us. We’ve seen years of negotiations, pathetic deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rein to carve open our lands, drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit," Thunberg, Villasenor and the other young leaders from around the world wrote. "We’ve seen fracking, deep sea drilling and coalmining continue. Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence....

"So today we walk out of school, we quit our college lessons, and we take to the streets to say enough is enough. Some adults say we shouldn’t be walking out of classes that we should be “getting an education”. We think organising against an existential threat and figuring out how to make our voices heard is teaching us some important lessons.

"Other adults keep saying: 'We owe it to the young people to give them hope.' But we don’t want your hope. We don’t want you to be hopeful. We want you to panic and we want you to take action. We want you to join us."

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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