Students strike for climate action

Sparked by an international movement that began in Europe, hundreds of thousands young people in the United States and abroad walked out of school last month, organizing the first Youth Climate Strike in more than 100 countries to bring attention to the issue of climate change.

In Washington, D.C., last week the demonstrators laid out their main objectives to include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in line with a 2018 report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They asked for U.S. leaders to implement the Green New Deal and other legislative actions to help to solve the climate crisis.

Colleen McKenny, a Washington, D.C., high school student, explained she helped organize the event in front of Capitol Hill to bring attention to the issue.

“I organized the rally because I want to bring attention to climate change and I think if it brings … enough attention to what you’re fighting for, it won’t be taken for granted,” she said. “It’s a legitimate request and one day it will be acknowledged as the standard; the standard for political candidates, companies, and citizens to do their part to not completely destroy the environment.”

Hundreds of people of all ages chanted and danced at Capitol Hill to music by Washington native Rebel Rae. “There was no way to predict this situation in this scenario. Except for the fact that the Earth is dying,” said Rae. There’s no way to know that the teenagers would have been leading the movement. It makes me so happy, so proud, and honored.”

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was the only member of Congress who spoke to the crowd, thanking them for “showing up to their future.”

Omar is a supporter of The New Green Deal, a proposal by several of her Democratic colleagues that calls for the United States to move away from using fossil fuels such as oil and coal and instead rely on renewable sources such as wind and solar power. It also calls for the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as a way to stop global warming.  

That proposal has run into several congressional roadblocks, including from those who consider it too costly. A vote in the U.S. Senate rejected it.

The student strike was inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who led the first student strike for climate change in front of the Swedish parliament last summer. She said recently that she “started this whole movement by leaving school every Friday since last August to strike against inaction to climate change. And we, the young people, have not contributed to this crisis. … We are not going to accept it. We are not going to let it happen. And that is why we are striking. We strike because we want a future, and we will continue.” Three Norwegian lawmakers have nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize.