On September 20th, about 250,000 protesters gathered in Lower Manhattan for the New York City Climate Strike to call for global action against the climate crisis. The NYC strike was just one of thousands happening around the world that same day. Although people of all generations were welcome to participate, one demographic took center stage: young people. Flooding the streets, young people chanted slogans, held up posters, and sparked conversations about the urgency of the climate crisis. Their mission was clear: sparking action and change. Being a young person myself (I’m 20 years old), the Climate Strike made me proud to be a part of this group. Here’s why:
1. We’re not as clueless as you think.
Just seeing the sheer number of young people rallying for climate action made it clear that the next generation knows what’s going on, and they’re not going to ignore it. Throughout the day, I talked to high school and college students who pointed out that climate change was an issue that was going to affect the younger generations the most — and they could explain why. They emphasized the need to listen to scientists and take action now, before it’s too late.
The awareness that these youths have about the climate crisis showed that although they were skipping school to protest, they were definitely educated on the issue. In a society where young people are ridiculed for being too distracted by their phones or video games to notice what’s going on in “the real world,” it was inspiring to see so many youths be passionate about and seek solutions for this very real issue.
2. Despite the urgency, we still have that youthful charm.
The climate crisis is a grim issue, and the protesters did not hesitate to bring up the consequences of inaction. However, there was also a decent percentage of protesters that chose to spread awareness through more comical means:memes. Posters featuring Shrek and viral Internet jokes were lifted high into the air, and although these posters brought laughs, they also brought forth powerful messages.
Seeing these types of posters made me realize just how young these protesters are, most of them in high school and middle school. They’re just like all other kids; they joke around, they’re loud, and they just want to have a little fun. Witnessing young people point at a poster and laugh because it referenced a meme, or seeing people hold up pictures of the childhood character The Lorax, emphasized the fact that the climate crisis is a young person’s issue. It’s an issue that they will grow up with and an issue that threatens to strip their childhood and youth away. Sometimes all that can be done is to find the humor in it.
3. We have the support of our parents.
Young people weren’t the only ones present at the Climate Strike. Many of them were also accompanied by their parents. I spoke to a few parents who brought young children to the strike, and they mentioned how it was important to show children the effects of standing up for what they believe in, especially since the climate crisis would be an issue unfortunately passed on to them.
I witnessed a group of children from the Peck Slip School meet and take photos with indigenous people from Brazil. After taking the photo, one of the chaperones explained to a young girl who these indigenous people are, and I thought it was incredible to see adults educating young people at such an early age. It made me hopeful for a future where these young people become the leaders and policymakers.
4. We realize the intersectionality of the issue.
One of the most compelling points that I heard at the Climate Strike was the point that Rebeca Sabnam, who spoke at the rally, made about the interconnectedness between the climate crisis, racial justice, and poverty. Sabnam spoke about how the people in Bangladesh have been suffering from frequent flooding for years, an issue that will only continue as sea levels rise. The floods hit the hardest for the Bangladeshi people in poverty, who live in the most flood-prone areas of the country.
Rebeca Sabnam’s speech highlighted the intersectionality of the climate crisis. The effects of climate change will disproportionately affect minorities and people in poverty, which is seen in instances like climate gentrification and the slow Hurricane Maria relief efforts. I’m glad that Rebeca pointed out the interconnectedness of climate and poverty because it could spark a call to address these issues.
5. We will vote.
From chanting “We vote next!” to some people actually registering to vote right there at the strike, it’s clear that young people are excited to vote in the coming election. Historically, young people have the lowest voter turnout out of all other age demographics, but these protesters hope to change that. Young protesters expressed their desire for firm action against the climate crisis, and now that many of them are becoming of age to vote, they intend on taking their concerns to the polls. With the amount of Millennials in the electorate increasing and on path to outnumber Boomers, young people are about to take the voting booths by storm.