On September 20, 2019, hundreds of thousands of children across the world skipped school to campaign for climate action. In New York City alone, it was reported that 250,000 turned out for the event. City public schools even gave children permission to protest by allowing their absences to be excused. Known as #climatestrike, they follow in the footsteps of Greta Thunberg, the young climate defender who began her activism in Sweden. Fed up with the inaction of her government, the sixteen-year-old began striking every Friday beginning in August, 2018.
I was there to witness the event and couldn’t believe the turnout. For an event centered around one of the most pressing issues of the day – climate change – the crowd was primarily composed and organized by children. Not too long before Thunberg made her appearance, the event also featured Jayden and Willow Smith, who performed a few songs and gave their support to the crowd. I thought the energy they gave Jayden and Willow was enough to deafen me, but it was nothing near the enthusiasm that they had for Thunberg.
Upon making her entrance on stage, the kids screamed and shouted for the young activist, chanting her name as she prepared to make her statement. Thunberg began by giving a few statistics of the turnout for the event across the world. She reported 350,000 in Australia, 100,000 in London, and 270,000 in Berlin, just to name a few. Thunberg said that even the youth in Antarctica were striking. She told the audience that, “This is an emergency; our house is on fire.” The young activist reprimanded politicians and governments for not acting. Thunberg asked the crowd, “Do you think they hear us?” To which the crowd yelled “NO!” and she insisted “They will hear us.”
As September 23rd arrives, leaders from around the world prepare to gather at the UN for the Climate Summit. Will they listen to the words of this young activist and the thousands of her followers? Or will they continue to have “our house” burn? Well, according to Thunberg, “Change is coming whether they like it or not.”