The Guardian asked student environmentalists from groups including the Youth Climate Strike US, the Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, and Youth v. Apocalypse to explain why they are going on strike. Here are some of the responses we received, but you can read more on our 24-hour Climate Strike edition of our live blog.
Audrey Lin, 17, Watertown, Massachusetts (Sunrise Movement)
I am 17 and cannot vote. Young people are not given social or legal agency over their own lives. We are often marginalized in adult spaces, and I’ve spent many conversations waiting for an invitation to speak because the adults talking took automatic authority.
When generations of elected leaders have failed to take action on a crisis clearly and undeniably present, it falls on the shoulders of young people to make change happen. My generation has the solutions, and I am joining the Youth Climate Strike to break the pattern of adults silencing youth voices.
Jordan McAuliff, 16, Silver Spring, Maryland (Sunrise Movement)
I am a descendent of Holocaust victims, and I was born in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11. These tragic events allowed for my birth and made my loved ones and me who we are. Because of this, I recognize that terrible things can create good. When I feel overwhelmed by fear about the future, I fight it by remembering that the climate crisis is a chance to create lasting justice, from overpowering greedy corporations to demanding change for people of color who are disproportionately impacted by environmental issues. Supporting the Green New Deal, which prioritizes the most at-risk people and provides alternatives to those corporations, helps me know I’m doing good, not just preventing bad.
Abigail Leedy, 17, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Zero Hour)
I’m striking Friday because I live in Philadelphia, a city I love with my whole heart.
Philadelphia is one of the most polluted major cities in the United States. In Philadelphia, at least 50% of our air pollution comes from fossil fuel projects around the city, most of which are located in low income communities and communities of color. In Philadelphia, public schools missed five days of school in August and September this year due to excessive heat. In Philadelphia, 156,000 people, or 10% of our population, will be displaced by sea level rise if we don’t make drastic changes to our carbon emissions.
I’m striking because I feel like I have run out of ways to communicate to my elected officials, that inaction on the climate crisis is violence, and that it is my life and air and future, and the lives and air and futures of every other 17-year-old girl – every young person – that are on the line.
Jesse Parks: Riverside, California (Zero Hour)
There is no planet B for my generation to escape the consequences of climate change.
As a 17-year-old environmental justice activist, I fight for climate protection and a world ran without pollution from fossil fuels. As I became more involved in the Zero Hour movement, I learned that where I live, in Riverside county, California, has some of the worst air quality in our country. Online and multinational corporations have built mega-developments and warehouses next to homes and schools across the inland region of southern California. The carbon emissions produced from the gas and diesel trucks, power plants, and diesel trains contribute to the horrendous air quality that kills 15 people a day in California’s South Coast Air District. These deaths come in the form of intense allergies and asthma, chronic bronchitis, cancer, and even heart attacks, according to the California Air Resources Board.
Although that is our current reality, we, the youth of America, have the power to change the current policies that allow this. This is why I am working with youth leaders to start organizing climate strikes across California. Climate strikes are just one tactic to raise awareness and call people to action. Our network is working on increasing accessibility to striking. Not all students are able to strike, many who come from low-income communities of color cannot afford to miss school for climate justice. We must do better to reach our masses, show solidarity, and advocate by any means necessary.
I am striking Friday, March 15th for my community and for those that cannot be present. This global movement is determined to make a difference on a mass scale towards clean air, energy, and zero emission from pollution.
You can read more statements from young climate activists on our 24-hour live blog documenting the global climate strikes.