On Friday, September 20, students across the world went on strike, demanding that world leaders take action to address climate change. The global strike was the biggest climate march in history, encompassing 150 countries in all seven continents and up to 7.6 million people. The event was part of 16-year-old Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg’s “School Strike for Climate” movement, also known as “Fridays for Future.” Greta started the movement by going on one-person strikes every Friday in her home country of Sweden, and she has gained international attention and a global following. She spoke at the climate march in New York City, which drew around 250,000 people.
Several students from Sleepy Hollow High School took part in the NYC strike, myself included. Most echoed similar sentiments of urgency and emphasized the need for immediate action. Junior Sayako Aizeki-Nevins remarked, “People across the globe face the impacts of climate change every day,” and warned of the consequences “if those of us able to act do not.” Zoey Millstein, who is also a junior, added, “I believe we need to take action now.” They are not alone in their conclusions. According to a new poll by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 1 in 4 American teenagers have participated in a walkout, attended a rally or written to a public official about climate change, and about 57% of teens report that the issue of climate change makes them scared. The sense of urgency is also especially present among low-income young people of color, whose communities are often hit first and hardest by the effects of climate change.
The climate march was planned to take place three days before the United Nations Climate Summit, in hopes of swaying world leaders to take more drastic action. Unfortunately, the outcome of the summit was not as immediately impactful as many participants had hoped for. Many countries made only incremental promises at the summit, and the US, which has vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, said nothing at all. These decisions come amid increasingly dire scientific reports, which warn that we have far less time than previously thought to keep global warming under 1.5o degrees Celsius and avoid the worst effects of climate change. With catastrophe seemingly imminent and world leaders doing virtually nothing about it, young people have decided to raise our voices, demand action, and do what everyone else won’t. The past generations have not been proactive in preventing a catastrophe, but we may yet save ourselves.