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Gen Z has spoken, are world leaders listening?

Young leaders gathered on Saturday at the United Nations for the Youth Climate Summit, where they voiced concerns and offered solutions for a warming planet, a day after millions of young people participated in a global climate strike. Megan Thompson spoke with producer Maya Navon and associate producer Nina Joung, who covered the strike in New York City for WNET’s Peril and Promise initiative.

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  • Megan Thompson:

    Today at the United Nations, young leaders are gathering for a Youth Climate Summit where they will voice their concerns and offer solutions for a warming planet. Yesterday, millions of young people around the world participated in a global climate strike. Producer Maya Navon and associate producer Nina Joung covered the strike here in New York City for W.N.E.T's Peril and Promise initiative addressing the challenge of climate change. So you guys were downtown yesterday, you were covering these protests, Maya, tell us what was the scene like? Who was there?

  • Maya Navon:

    There were so many people there. There's reports that there was 250,000 plus people there and it was really intergenerational. We saw people of all ages really coming out to have their voices be heard. And there was so much excitement in the air and you just felt this great energy. I will say that the majority of the people were youth — high school students, middle school students and they were out in full force.

  • Megan Thompson:

    I assume you guys really talked to some of the protesters. What kinds of things were they saying to you about why they were there?

  • Nina Joung:

    A lot of them mentioned Greta Thunberg being a huge inspiration an icon for the movement. A lot of the posters that we saw reference to what are now her famous phrases of "The house is on fire," "Unite behind the signs." These are phrases that Greta has been repeating over and over to the media and it's what people have been rallying behind.

  • Megan Thompson:

    So we're talking about the Swedish activist to Greta Thunberg. And she was actually there, right? She addressed the crowd. What was that like?

  • Maya Navon:

    It was like a rock star had showed up. As soon as she got on the stage, people rushed towards the stage and were chanting her name over and over and you just felt this excitement. She's really become somewhat of an icon to young people because I think they really feel they really resonate with her message. And so it was very exciting to hear her speak and you could tell that everyone there was listening closely to what she had to say.

  • Megan Thompson:

    This protest here in New York were just part of protests all around the world. Talk about the timing. Why these protests now?

  • Maya Navon:

    I think these protests now because people and and youth frankly are ready for change. They want to hold leaders accountable and they're really really looking towards the U.N. Climate Summit, which is happening on Monday here in New York to see what leaders will do. Will they take action? And even if they don't and they don't meet their demands, they are their fire is fueled. They are really excited to continue to have their voices be heard and hold adults accountable. And that's really what the youth keep saying.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Yeah I mean it seems like this generation has really embraced climate change in a new way…they're talking about it in new ways.

  • Nina Joung:

    I mean I think the youth kind of bring a more vibrant energy to a discussion that has been happening for decades. But right now I think the youth kind of bring an urgency because as we know they are the future. And there's this pressure of the eleven years that we have before it temperatures increase by three degrees and they're not taking that lightly. And you can see that not just in the amounts of people who are gathering at these strikes but you see it in more lighthearted ways as well like when we were at the strike we saw really just tongue in cheek like sarcastic signs pointing at meme culture even. I mean you can have a Gen Z strike without memes. So just the youth I think are kind of poking fun and bringing to light the fact that adults haven't addressed this as the urgent crisis that it is. And they are stepping up. So.

  • Megan Thompson:

    All right. Maya Navon, Nina Joung, thank you so much for being here.

  • Maya Navon:

    Thank you.

  • Nina Joung:

    Thank you.

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