The global climate strike is expected to be one of the largest environmental protests in history, and young people want to show they shouldn’t be underestimated.
On Friday, more than 5,000 youth-led demonstrations in 156 countries — including 100-plus in California alone — will demand climate justice and government action to end reliance on fossil fuels. The demonstrations, headed by organizers including 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, are the start of a weeklong campaign surrounding the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York that will be capped by another global strike on Sept. 27.
On Monday, officials from dozens of countries are expected to reveal new efforts at combating climate change at a daylong summit at the United Nations.
Global climate strike details
Students have pledged to walk out of school as part of Friday’s action, which is expected to draw millions of participants.
The global climate strike has the potential to see more supporters than previous high-profile climate demonstrations. The 2014 People’s Climate March saw a record 310,000 demonstrators rally in New York as 2,000 similar demonstrations took place around the world ahead of a U.N. Climate Summit. The 2017 March for Science in Washington drew 40,000 people and inspired satellite marches in more than 600 cities around the world. Global youth-led school strikes led by Thunberg in March and May also claimed more than a million participants each.
“We, children and students, don’t feel like we have a choice. … [Politicians] have willingly handed over their responsibility for our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence,” wrote Thunberg and dozens of other youth activists in a May letter announcing the campaign.
The demonstrations are expected to begin in the morning and continue throughout the day as determined by individual organizers.
In Los Angeles County, the earliest demonstration is expected to begin at 7 a.m. in Long Beach. Another demonstration in downtown Los Angeles at Pershing Square is slated to start at noon.
In New York, where Thunberg will be leading a strike, city education officials announced that the country’s largest public education system would excuse absences for any of its 1.1 million students taking part in the strike with parental consent.
At least 72 trade unions and federations representing millions of people will take formal strike actions. Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics will be among 2,500 businesses hosting poster-making stations in stores or closing for the day, while hundreds of employees at major tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google plan to walk out of work.
With over 1,500 Amazon and 700 Google tech workers pledging to walk out in support of the youth-led Global Climate Strike, Amazon’s newly announced “Climate Pledge” proves that collective action and employee pressure works.— Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@AMZNforClimate) September 19, 2019
Kickstarter, Tumblr and Wordpress will also be among the 6,000 websites joining a digital strike that will direct visitors to information about the climate movement and share bright green graphics of solidarity in social media feeds.
Young people have been mobilizing school strikes around the world since August 2018 when then-15-year-old Thunberg protested Swedish parliament over a lack of climate action. She started the viral #FridaysForFuture campaign that would later inspire Friday’s strike.
The movement cites a 2018 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warned world leaders that, without bold intervention, some devastating effects of climate change would hit harder — and much sooner — than previously expected.
“This moment has to happen,” the activists wrote. “Emissions must drop rapidly — so that by the time we are in our mid- and late-20s we are living in a completely transformed world.”
Organizers have stressed that the movement needs buy-in from adults to make a lasting impression on lawmakers.
“We feel a lot of adults haven’t quite understood that we young people won’t hold off the climate crisis ourselves. Sorry, if this is inconvenient for you. But this is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job,” organizers wrote in May.
In the U.S., demands created by environmental justice organizations include calls for a Green New Deal, the end of global deforestation by 2030 and a commitment to communities most affected by climate change.
The global strike follows the appearance of young climate activists in Washington this week where they offered advice to Congress on how to fight climate change.
“Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything,” Thunberg said to a congressional committee. “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”