An estimated four million people worldwide took to the streets on Friday, September 20, 2019, for the youth-instigated Global Climate Strike. The young protestors, and their adult supporters, marched along city streets or lobbied outside government buildings to urge leaders to take aggressive action against climate change. Some US companies, such as Ben & Jerry's, Etsy, and The North Face, also joined in the effort by closing their stores to allow employees to participate. Believed to be the largest-ever climate change rally, the September 20 strike will be followed by a similar event on September 27.
The back-to-back protests are timed to coincide with the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit in New York City on Monday, September 23, 2019. The meeting is designed to challenge world leaders from 69 countries to discuss concrete steps to address climate change. The UN hopes their actions will help reduce global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and, if all goes well, eliminate them altogether by 2050.
While the strikes are rooted in long-standing anger about the changing environment, the worldwide call for action can be single-handedly attributed to teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. The 16-year-old rose to prominence a year ago after she began spending Fridays outside the Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm to convince officials to take action against climate change. Her solo protests have inspired youngsters all over the globe to take action and lead the charge in their respective cities.
Now the face of the climate change movement, Thunberg, who came from Sweden to New York City in an emissions-free sailboat, was one of the key speakers at the UN Climate Change Summit. On Monday, September 23, the emotional teenager told lawmakers, “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.” She then urged lawmakers to listen to scientists and take immediate measures to help reverse climate change. She concluded by warning lawmakers that "change was coming, whether you like it or not."
While Thunberg and other young climate activists are calling the recent Global Climate Strike a victory in terms of its size and reach, they realize it will take time to convince lawmakers to create real change. However, the teenager is hopeful they will begin to pay attention as more people of all ages join in the call-to-action. She says, “If enough people get together and stand up for this, then that can have a huge difference."
Resources: Fastcompany.com, Time.com, CNN.com