Youth climate strike brings millions of students to rally for action combating climate change

Student strike in Portland, Maine. Photo by Jon Hinck

By Ramona du Houx

Hundreds of students across world left schools to rally over climate change during the first Youth Climate Strike, on March 15, 2019.

More than a hundred students marched across the Capitol’s lawn in Washington D.C., chanting “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now.”

“It is time the world listens to these young people and pays attention to what we’re asking for,” said 16-year-old Maddy Fernands, Youth Climate Strike U.S. press director.

“Yes, we are at a dark moment in our history, but we are the light that can bring change,” said Isra Hirsi, who is also the 16-year-old daughter of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. “We must end the extraction of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world and keep it in the ground.” 

Federal scientists say the earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. The global sea level has risen by about eight inches in the last 100 years, due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

American students from all 50 states demanded that adults take action on climate change.

Their strike included an 11-minute school walkout at 11am ET to draw attention to a recent UN report warning that we have just 11 years to avoid a climate change catastrophe. 

More than 1,300 Youth Climate Strike events were held in nearly 122 countries. At least six Maine towns/cities held student “strikes.”

“We are here today because time is running out,” said Anna Siegel, 12, a seventh grader at the Friends School of Portland who organized the Portland demonstration. “We are here today to take action and fight for the right to live on a healthy and stable Earth.”

The students who gathered for the event in Portland, Maine called for lawmakers to support the Green New Deal, a plan promoted by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey, of Massachusetts, to transition the country towards renewable energies and technologies creating a Green Energy Revolution.

Students that took part in the Youth Climate Strikes also called for the declaration of a national emergency on climate change, an end to all fossil fuel-reliant infrastructure projects and compulsory education on climate change in all elementary and middle schools, among other demands.

The economy could be given a huge boost transitioning over to clean energy. The technologies are there. The infrastructure jobs created would be in the millions and so would profits. Oil barons and coal kings would be less likely to be endorsing the measure. Going “green” would also mean Americans would breath fresher air, eat non-polluted food sources and generally be healthier from it.

Student strike in Portland, Maine. Photos by Jon Hinck

“Our generation is standing tall, and we’re not going anywhere,” said Ruth Metcalfe, a sophomore at Kennebunk High School. “We need to stand up not only for our generation, but for every generation after us. It’s not a liberal or conservative issue, it’s an issue that will affect every single one of us.”

                                                                                                                                                              Recent research has shown that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost anywhere else in Earth’s oceans.

 “This is our job,” Phoebe MacDonald, 9, of Portland’s Ocean Avenue Elementary School called out to a crowd of nearly 600 gathered outside Portland City Hall. “We can’t wait for others to do it. . .We all have the ability to make a difference, if we work together and we act.”

In the UK an estimated 10,000 young people gathered in London and thousands more took to the streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as other towns and cities.

The event was embraced in Uganda, the Philippines and Nepal as tens of thousands of schoolchildren and students went on “strike,” demanding the political elite urgently address what they say is a climate emergency.

Across Africa, there were strikes in several countries. India had a nationwide strike. In Sweden, students gathered in Stockholm’s central square to hear 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the girl whose determination has inspired millions of people around the world and earned a nomination this week for the Nobel peace prize.

When she appeared, the crowd chanted her name. “We have been born into this world and we have to live with this crisis, and our children and our grandchildren. We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are,” Thunberg told the crowd.