October 24, 2019
The Earth is sick: climate trends are more erratic than ever, greenhouse gases are trapping more heat in the atmosphere, glaciers are melting, with storms stronger, droughts longer. And the younger generations demand a cure.
The Global Climate Strike was an internationally organized climate demonstration that took place on September 20th, inspiring hundreds of thousands of students and young adults around the world to push for positive environmental change. According to The Guardian, over 4,500 strikes were organized in over 120 countries; in the U.S. alone, more than 500 strikes were registered. The movement’s official website specified that between September 20th and 27th, around “7.5 million people took to the
streets and striked for climate action.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the founder of a school climate strike movement named Fridays for Future, is now the face of environmental activism at the age of just 16. Thunberg spoke to the crowd of protesters at the Global Climate Strike in New York, “Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action then we will. It should not be that way. We should not be the ones who are fighting for the future. And yet, here we are.”
Fridays for Future began in August 2018, with Thunberg sitting in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest the government’s complacency on climate change. “We deserve a safe future,” Thunberg continued. “And we demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?”
Students at Atholton High School joined the international movement on Friday, September 20th, walking out to the football stadium at 12:30. Atholton senior Victoria Adler led the school’s strike. “I wanted to not only spread awareness but also motivate our students. It can be very discouraging with the news and headlines, thinking that you’re alone in your passions or your frustrations. More than anything, I wanted to uplift our Raiders, and spread a positive message,” Adler said.
Other Howard County high schools, including Glenelg, Centennial, and Hammond, also arranged walkouts at their respective schools, encouraging student activism for the environment. “I got in contact with a bunch of people across Howard County who were interested in [organizing a walkout] at their schools,” said Adler. “We were a team. We had weekly calls…we got in contact with the administration.”
Adler reflected on Atholton’s strike with pride. “I really do [believe we accomplished this]. Someone came up to me and told me that last year they had a walkout and only eight people walked out. I didn’t even know that had happened. So the fact that we were able to pull this off in just a week is just amazing to me,” she said.
Critics of the walkout argue that public protests and mass demonstrations are disruptive and ineffective in accomplishing tangible improvements for the environment. Some say that the issued climate warnings are dramatized and over-the-top by young alarmists.
Whether or not this global movement will cause meaningful changes to public policy is still unclear; however, the strike’s success in garnering unprecedented levels of international participation is unequivocal. “Change is coming, whether you like it or not,” Thunberg wrote on her social media. “Millions of people marching for the climate today. Estimates say 270,000 in Berlin. 100,000 in Hamburg. 100,000 in London. Up to 400,000 in Australia.”
In light of serious concerns on global warming and erratic climate trends, citizens and law makers around the world look for possible environmental solutions. At a U.N. conference in Nairobi, Kenya, the sixth Global Environment Outlook released a report that details that “changes in the way the world eats, buys things, gets its energy and handles its waste” could all work towards decreasing the ramifications of climate change.
Climate change is not going away anytime soon, of course–but student activism has once again shown its power in increasing awareness for a pressing issue. Atholton’s walkout, though much smaller in scale compared to the global significance of climate change, unequivocally contributes to raising support for environmental action.