How the youth-led climate strikes became a global mass movement

The Global Climate Strike is the result of a whole new generation taking bold action and could be the turning point for grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.

Image result for waging nonviolence: The Global Climate Strike is the result of a whole new generation taking bold action and could be the turning point for grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.

It began as a call to action from a group of youth activists scattered across the globe, and soon became what is shaping up to be the largest planet-wide protest for the climate the world has ever seen.

The Global Climate Strike, which kicks off on Sept. 20, will not be the first time people all over the world have taken action for the climate on a single day. But if things play out the way organizers hope, it could mark a turning point for the grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.

“Strikes are happening almost everywhere you can think of,” said Jamie Margolin, a high school student from Seattle who played a role in initiating this global movement. “People are participating in literally every place in the world.”

“Suddenly there’s this entire new generation of activists calling out everyone no matter who they are for not doing enough, and that’s woken people up.”

Starting Friday and continuing throughout the following week, thousands or possibly millions of people will participate in actions calling on governments to address the climate crisis. From elementary school students organizing walk-outs, to experienced activists planning nonviolent disruption in major cities, people will call attention to the moral urgency of climate change by interrupting business as usual.

“It’s a galvanizing moment for the climate movement, which frankly has been losing the battle up to now,” said Jake Woodier of the UK Student Climate Network, which is organizing for the strike in London and other cities across the United Kingdom. “Suddenly there’s this entire new generation of activists calling out everyone no matter who they are for not doing enough, and that’s woken people up.”

As is nearly always the case for large social movements, momentum for the Climate Strike came from many different people in different places. But if its origins can be traced to a specific event, it would probably be a 2018 march spearheaded by the youth-led organization Zero Hour, which Margolin co-founded a year earlier with a small group of other young activists — mainly students of color.

The Zero Hour youth climate march took place on July 21 of last year in Washington, D.C. and was preceded two days earlier by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill, along with other student-led events all over the United States. Hundreds of young people joined the D.C. action despite rainy weather, drawing considerable media attention and shining a spotlight on how Generation Z is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. But what hardly anyone could have guessed was that behind the scenes, Zero Hour had put in motion a series of events that would lead to an even larger, worldwide mobilization led by young people.

Jamie Margolin speaking to a crowd of youth climate activists. (Facebook/Zero Hour) 

On the other side of the Atlantic, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, 15 years old at the time, had been reading news about Zero Hour online and was inspired by its leaders’ vision of a distinctively youth-led movement. She began following organizers like Margolin on social media, and soon the teens from different continents were communicating about climate activism over the internet. On August 20, 2018, Thunberg staged her first “climate strike,” skipping school to protest for climate action outside the Swedish parliament. The following month she launched the ongoing “Fridays for Future” strikes, inviting other students to join her in holding school walkouts every week.

“Greta Thunberg’s actions sparked a movement,” Woodier said. “In a world where we’re often made to feel individualized and atomized, that we’re small and can’t make a difference, she has been a massive inspiration to many young people.”

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In late 2018, Thunberg began attending intergovernmental climate meetings in Europe, including a U.N. summit in Poland. She wasn’t the first young person to show up at the United Nations and call on leaders to take action, but there was something unique about her approach.

For one thing, Thunberg was decidedly more pointed than her predecessors in calling out policymakers’ inaction, telling the leaders in Poland, “You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is.” For thousands of people around the world who were fed up with decades of government inertia, her tone was a welcome change.

Moreover, several converging factors contributed to Thunberg’s activism coming at the perfect time. The climate movement has — over the last decade — been getting gradually better at organizing coordinated actions across continents, making possible the rapid spread of new tactics. At the same time, in the United States, the high school student-led March for Our Lives against gun violence provided a model for what a mass youth movement could look like. Finally, with extreme weather hammering nearly every part of the world, more people are waking up to the urgency of the climate crisis, making them receptive to Thunberg’s message. As a well-spoken member of the generation that will bear the costs of climate change more than any other alive today, Thunberg was the perfect movement spokesperson to harness the opportunity created by these events. Soon her addresses to world leaders were going viral on YouTube.

Meanwhile, the Fridays for Future movement was growing — especially in Europe, where it has had the most influence so far. In July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cited pressure from youth activists as one reason her government plans to move more aggressively to curb carbon emissions. Across much of Europe, the strike movement has helped put climate change higher on the political agenda for both policymakers and voters. A Green Party surge in May’s E.U. parliamentary elections is possibly the most concrete sign yet of the movement’s impact. But the strikes quickly spread beyond Europe.

There are now nearly 700 strikes scheduled in the United States, and hundreds of others in 117 countries across the globe.

By early 2019, school strikes were taking place in countries including the United States, Brazil, India and Australia. Then, over the spring and summer, calls started coming for a new escalation of the movement — one led by youth, but with participation from people of all ages. The idea was for a worldwide strike where people would leave school, work or other daily tasks to join protests for climate action.

The date chosen to kick off the planet-wide strike coincides with the lead-up to an emergency climate summit, called by U.N. Secretary-Gen. António Guterres and is scheduled to begin in New York on Sept. 23. Many see this U.N. gathering — intended as an opportunity for countries to strengthen their goals under the Paris climate agreement — as being itself a direct reaction to the grassroots pressure governments are feeling.

“This climate action summit was called in response to the worsening climate crisis and pressure from the strike movement,” Woodier said. “That’s a reversal from the past, when climate organizers planned demonstrations in response to official events set in stone long beforehand.”

Greta Thunberg (center) joined other climate striking youth in New York City last month. (Twitter/@GretaThunberg) 

Thunberg has been invited to address the U.N. meeting, and a special youth summit will be attended by teens from around the world, including Margolin. On Aug. 28, Thunberg arrived in New York after crossing the Atlantic in an emissions-free yacht. She had barely set foot on U.S. soil before joining a youth-led climate protest outside the U.N. headquarters. Meanwhile, the Global Climate Strike has been endorsed by close to 200 organizations in the United States alone, and hundreds more internationally.

While the largest demonstrations will take place in major cities, strike actions are also making waves in smaller towns, even within fossil fuel-producing states. “I expect our growing local climate movement will bring out more people for the strike than we’ve ever seen before,” said Jeff Smith, co-chair of 350 Montana, one of several organization involved in planning a series of strike actions in Missoula. “I expect the crowds alone will be enough to dominate our local news cycle.”

In the United States, national organizations encouraging their members to join the strikes include Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, Oil Change International, MoveOn, Food and Water Watch and many others. According to the international climate group 350.org, there are now nearly 700 strikes scheduled in the United States, and hundreds of others in 117 countries across the globe.

 8 lessons for today’s youth-led movements from a decade of youth climate organizing

350.org has a good amount of experience with this type of international climate mobilization. The organization initiated the first truly large-scale day of action specifically devoted to climate change in October 2009. It took place in the lead-up to that year’s U.N. climate negotiations in Copenhagen and was meant to push delegates to adopt a strong, binding international climate treaty. The idea that such a goal could have been successful at that point may appear naïve in hindsight, but at the time it didn’t seem so unreasonable. The United States had recently elected Barack Obama as its president, and even many climate activists had yet to realize just how deeply entrenched fossil fuel money was in the halls of government.

Indeed, the 2009 day of global action was largely a festive, celebratory affair. Groups posed for photos with banners in front of melting alpine glaciers and other landmarks affected by climate change. There was lots of artwork and relatively few truly large marches. This made sense for a global movement that was just finding its feet — at a time when it genuinely seemed like world leaders might be gently prodded into doing the right thing. But with international progress on climate change largely stalled, legislative action in the United States nonexistent, and the ascendancy of right-wing leaders like Donald Trump, the mood of the climate movement has changed dramatically.

“Folks watching the science understand we are now in the runaway phase of climate catastrophe,” said Nadine Bloch, an organizer with #ShutDownDC, which is planning an action to bring work in the U.S. Capitol to a standstill next week. “The urgency of being on fire has finally been heeded by folks outside traditional activist communities.” The Global Climate Strike will take place just 10 years shy of the 2009 mobilization, and it will include larger and more escalated demonstrations. Its message — that action on climate change takes precedence over school and day jobs — reflects this increased urgency.

Yet, while the word “strike” connotes a more militant type of nonviolent action than photo shoots and rallies, not everyone shares the same vision of what it looks like. “In the United States in particular, a lot of people don’t understand what a strike actually is,” Bloch said. “They’re still talking about getting permits for protests, which isn’t a true strike.” #ShutDownDC envisions something more disruptive, though nonviolent. “We’re planning to interrupt business as usual in the seat of government power where leaders are refusing to acknowledge the climate crisis or take responsibility.”

“I’m motivated by two things: What I’m for and what I’m against,” Margolin said.

Activists are also planning for how to carry momentum from the strike forward into other youth-led movements. “Dismay at government inaction has led people to get involved in the climate strikes,” said Gracie Brett of Divest Ed, which works with over 70 campus-based fossil fuel divestment campaigns. “This same urgency has led to the divestment movement getting a second wind recently. It offers an opportunity to be involved beyond the strike.”

Jamie Margolin also sees the strike as a way to bring larger numbers of young people into the climate movement. “A lot of people aren’t initially attracted to the nitty gritty organizing, which is the vast majority of the work that goes into climate activism,” she said. “But if you say to them, ‘Hey do you want to join this mass action?’ — that attracts nearly everyone. Mobilizations like the strike are a point of entry to the wider movement.”

Margolin, who originally helped inspire Greta Thunberg’s activism, has since followed her lead by regularly striking from school. She has relatives in Colombia and is motivated by the knowledge of how climate change will impact both her current home and the place of her family’s origins. In this sense, she has much in common with other young people in an increasingly diverse and international climate movement — where teenagers and young adults use the internet to coordinate actions across continents and oceans.

“I’m motivated by two things: What I’m for and what I’m against,” Margolin said. “I’m fighting to protect the beautiful Pacific Northwest where I live today, and the beautiful Amazon Rainforest in the place my family is from. But I’m also fighting against the handful of people at the top of a handful of corporations who are literally destroying life on Earth for the other seven billion of us. SOURCE

Review – This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

Suki Ferguson reviews the XR guide to climate activism


Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus. By Mark Ramsay, under a CC BY 2.0 license

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is many things at once: a hopeful mass movement; a commuter’s nightmare; a source of inspiration; an apocalyptic kick up the arse. Within the UK climate movement, it has become a Rorschach test. For some, its shock doctrine ethos flirts with eco-fascism. For others, the actions have become their life’s calling. This Is Not A Drill has been written to clarify, inform, inspire and equip the people who are undecided yet interested in moving deeper into the climate action zeitgeist XR has ingeniously catalysed.

The book is loud and proud. Its hot pink cover is impossible to ignore, and pages of the text are dedicated to vivid woodcut imagery and all-caps messages. The book contains a wealth of essays, anecdotes, and advice. All are short and generally unfussy: no footnotes here. They are written by people from a variety of backgrounds, united through their concern over climate breakdown. An Indian farmer and a Californian firefighter offer their perspectives; individuals working in academia, climate science, politics and other fields weigh in too. These include Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives; psychotherapist Susie Orbach; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an indigenous rights campaigner from the Mbororo community in Chad; and visionary economist Kate Raworth, among many others.

Notably, XR is working to develop a deeper understanding of climate justice and the causes of climate breakdown. The Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva writes a powerful foreword stating explicitly that ‘ecocide and genocide are one indivisible process’, pointing to colonialism’s ravaging motive by quoting US President Andrew Jackson’s 1833 call for ‘a superior race’ to triumph over native people in America. She and other contributors make it clear that colonialism and capitalism comprise a pincer movement that is destroying life as we know it. This lays important foundations for conversations about what an ecologically healthy and socially just future needs to consign to history.

Salutary reads

These big global overviews of climate breakdown and its impact on different communities are salutary reads for any reader. The more practical pieces that explore the logistics of effective direct action are excellent too. One, ‘Cultural Roadblocks’, shares the story behind how XR sourced a boat for activism purposes, and it conveys the mix of determination, absurdity, effort and camaraderie that collective action can involve. From branding textiles, to befriending journalists, to cooking on-site meals that won’t give everyone food poisoning, the best of these chapters share the qualities of being informal, smart, and motivating.

There is unexplored tension in the text. Horizontal self-organising is recommended throughout, yet the encouraged action, reiterated through a number of chapters, remains bafflingly prescriptive: disrupt transport in capital cities. Blocking bridges is a tactic, but is it the only option? According to This Is Not A Drill, it would seem so. The roots to this strategy can be found in the chapter written by XR co-founder Roger Hallam, where he states that disrupting cities is the only option: ‘That’s just the way it is.’ Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, effective civil rights leaders whose work Hallam cites elsewhere, might have disagreed with this dogma; the Salt Marches in India and the Selma to Montgomery marches in the US, for example, were pivotal to their respective causes.

It’s worth noting that Hallam has form in presenting opinion as fact. When interviewed on the Politics Theory Other podcast, he was challenged on the claim that ‘most prison officers are black’, which appeared in the (now-deleted) XR prison handbook. Hallam doubled down on the claim, saying, ‘That’s just an empirical fact. I mean, I’ve been to prison several times and that’s the fact of the matter.’ Given that, in reality, over 94 per cent of all UK prison officers are white, it seems wise to take Hallam’s other ‘empirical facts’ with a pinch of salt, city roadblocks as a means to liberation for all being one of the them. MORE

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference review – Greta Thunberg’s vision

The speeches of a young climate crisis activist who inspired global school strikes are sobering but tentatively hopeful

In 1791, a tall, good-looking ex-naval officer called Richard Brothers claimed to hear the voice of an angel predicting God’s imminent destruction of London. In the same year, William Bryan – a Bristolian with mellifluous voice and “clear and gentle” eyes – prophesied the overturn of global monarchies, followed a few years later by the “fall” of Bristol, and an earthquake in which London would “burn like an oven”. Their critics accused Brothers and Bryan of “enthusiasm”, of falsely believing they were acting under divine inspiration. Satirists aligned them with the bloodiest of French revolutionaries. They seemed to exhibit the same disrespect for established social hierarchies, the same untamed emotions, the same wild eyes, torn clothes and dangerously unkempt appearance.

Judging by the criticism levelled at Greta Thunberg – the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who launched a Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for the climate) in August 2018 – many fear her as the Brothers or Bryan of our times. She has been accused of alarmism and fearmongering, with a “doomsday” prophecy of climate catastrophe, necessitating changes that will crash the global economy. Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers Corbyn has dismissed Thunberg as a “brainwashed child”, an inspired puppet of cynical adults. Spiked magazine’s Ella Whelan sees Thunberg’s school strike as an encapsulation of her entire method: a rejection of rationalism and education for “kneejerk, panicky responses” and wild, self-indulgent emotion. Thunberg is painfully aware that “people tell me that I’m retarded, a bitch and a terrorist, and many other things”.

But her speeches – now collected and published under the title of her refrain, “no one is too small to make a difference” – give the lie to these caricatures. Yes, she reiterates, “I want you to panic … I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” But this is offset by dispassionate emphasis on bullet-pointed facts and figures, and the defence that emotion – even panic – is completely rational.

Perhaps Thunberg is a prophet after all. Brothers and Bryan leaped to fame in the 1790s, when their visions of toppling hierarchies and ravaged cities gave shape to people’s inchoate hopes and fears about change and corruption after the French Revolution. Their prophecies confirmed the widespread sense that to live in 1790s Britain was to live in a time of profound, unsettling and not necessarily optimistic change. 

Thunberg’s appeal to us now is slightly different. Her simple emotion and “black-and-white” rationalism suggest authenticity and trust to her audience, many of whom are wary of adult experts suspected of harbouring hidden agendas.

But most of all, whereas Brothers and Bryan’s prophecies gave shape to public fears of catastrophe and collapse, Thunberg speaks to a people acutely aware of living in a time of transition, on a knife-edge between multiple possible futures. Her argument is not driven by a belief that we are all doomed, but is cut through with tentative hope. And as a small, isolated figure, with her pigtails and open face, poised bravely behind an enormous lectern, facing down a roomful of powerful, suited adults, she embodies what it’s like to be an individual who yearns for change, against a juggernaut of commercial and political interests defending the status quo. I wonder if many of us right now, across a multitude of political persuasions, see ourselves in Thunberg, in the fragility of our political and environmental hopes, and our sense of personal impotence. As she says: “I’m too young to do this. We children shouldn’t have to do this.” A greater readiness to involve ourselves in collective action would go a long way towards lessening not just Thunberg’s vulnerability, but our own.

 No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg is published by Penguin (£2.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p on all online orders over £15.

 A prophet for our times? … Greta Thunberg at the R20 Austrian world summit. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Extinction Rebellion Making Things Inconvenient? Actually, Says Naomi Klein, the Climate Crisis ‘Is Really, Really Inconvenient’

“There is nothing more inconvenient than being hit by a Category 5 hurricane, by having a wildfire raze your town.”

Writer George Monbiot is arrested by police officers after being arrested in Trafalgar Square on October 16, 2019 in London.
Writer George Monbiot is arrested by police officers after being arrested in Trafalgar Square on October 16, 2019 in London. Activists held an emergency people’s assembly in Trafalgar Square following a ban on Extinction Rebellion protests in London. (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

As Extinction Rebellion activists in London on Wednesday ramped up their latest mobilization with a tenth consecutive day of action, author Naomi Klein pushed back against criticism of the climate protesters and said the climate crisis itself is what’s truly disruptive.

In an interview with Sky News presenter Adam Boulton posted Wednesday, Klein refuted the notion that “a lot of action” to address the climate crisis is “being taken by politicians,” saying their lack of sufficient action is what has drawn youth climate and Extinction Rebellion activists into the streets across the world in recent weeks.

“If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules, then the rules must be broken.”
—Greta Thunberg
The interview came as the global mobilization—which has blocked major roads and bridges in their bid to demand greenhouse gas emissions go down to net zero by 2025—staged a number of actions on Wednesday in defiance of a London-wide ban.

Extinction Rebellion has also announced that several affinity groups plan to disrupt Tube services on Thursday. “In any other circumstances,” the group said in a statement, “these groups would never dream of disrupting the Tube but this is an emergency.”

Boulton, in his interview with Klein, said the climate activists put others in a position such that their “route to work is being obstructed” and said XR was “trying to shut down the Tube system.”

“Yes, it’s inconveniencing people,” said Klein. “As somebody who has covered natural disasters that are fueled by climate change for 15 years—there is nothing more inconvenient than being hit by a Category 5 hurricane, by having a wildfire raze your town.”

“Let me tell you how inconvenient it is for the people in Paradise, California, 14,000 of whom lost their homes,” she continued. “Climate change is really, really inconvenient. And so if people have to deal with this inconvenience of some protests in London to get the attention of politicians who have been focused on a singular way on the emergency of Brexit, then so be it.”

London Metropolitan Police this week issued an order banning “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising'” within city.

One of Wednesday’s actions was a “people’s assembly” in Trafalgar Square in which roughly 2,500 activists gathered to strategize responses to what they say is the government’s continued inaction on the climate crisis. Among those in the square detained by police was journalist and activist George Monbiot:

MORE

‘We can’t eat money, or drink oil’: Indigenous teen Autumn Peltier tells United Nations


Chief Water Commissioner Autumn Peltier, from Canada’s Anishinabek Nation, addresses the Global Landscapes Forum, at the United Nations, on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Photo by The Associated Press/Richard Drew

The 15-year-old activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario urged the global community to respect the sacredness and importance of clean water.

“I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, we can’t eat money, or drink oil.”

Peltier spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum, a platform on sustainable land use founded by UN Environment and the World Bank that’s dedicated to achieving development and climate goals.

She used the speech to draw attention to the lack of clean water in numerous Indigenous communities, which she says sparked her activism.

“All across these lands, we know somewhere were someone can’t drink the water. Why so many, and why have they gone without for so long?”

She said she’s been taught traditional knowledge from an early age about the sacredness of water, and that more should learn these lessons.

“Maybe we need to have more elders and youth together sitting at the decision table when people make decisions about our lands and waters.”

Peltier called for an end to plastic use as one step in restoring a more sustainable world.

Her speech comes a day after huge crowds took to the streets in Canada as part of a global climate strike.

The speech was her second at the UN headquarters, having urged the General Assembly to “warrior up” and take a stand for our planet last year.

Peltier, who is nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize by the David Suzuki Foundation, has spread her message at hundreds of events around the world.

In 2015, Peltier attended the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, and a year later, confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his “broken promises” at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations. SOURCE

With Two Weeks Until #GlobalClimateStrike, Organizing Intensifies in 100+ Countries to Win ‘Livable Future for All’

“Our message will be clear—we must act now to avoid the worst effects of climate change because all of our lives depend upon it.”


Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg joined other young people outside the U.N. headquarters in New York City Friday. (Photo: Katie Holten/Twitter)

As youth with the Fridays for Future movement took to the streets Friday, two weeks ahead of the global #ClimateStrike planned for Sept. 20, environmental activists continued to raise awareness about the upcoming protests being organized in more than 100 countries.

Climate campaigners already have registered over 2,500 strikes worldwide, with more than 450 actions planned for the United States, the advocacy group 350.org announced in a statement Friday.

To register for an event or find one near you, visit globalclimatestrike.net. For U.S. strikes, visit strikewithus.org.

 

The demonstrations on Sept. 20 will kick off a week of action that coincides with a United Nations climate summit in New York City. Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, 350.org’s North America director, said Friday that the global strike “is an intergenerational and multiracial moment to make our stand for our right to transformative climate action that preserves a sustainable, healthy, and livable future for all.”

“With the leadership of young people backed by grandparents and parents alike, health workers, teachers, cab drivers and more, now is the time for all of us to come together to demand that real climate leaders at the national, state and local levels hold fossil fuel companies accountable for decades of negligence and damage,” added Toles O’Laughlin, recognizing the youth activists that inspired the global movement.

Some of those youth activists—including Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg—gathered outside the U.N. headquarters in New York Friday, chanting: “No more coal! No more oil! Keep the carbon in the soil!”

Friday was the second consecutive week that Thunberg joined youth protests for urgent climate action outside the U.N. headquarters following her two-week journey across the Atlantic on a carbon emissions-free sailboat. Thunberg tweeted Friday, “Even though I’ve taken a sabbatical year from school, I will still demonstrate every Friday wherever I am.”

Xiye Bastida of Fridays For Future NYC explained that the global strike on Sept. 20 “isn’t a goal, it’s a catalyst for future action.”

“It’s a catalyst for the engagement of humanity in the protection of Earth,” Bastida continued. “It’s a catalyst for realizing the intersectionality that the climate crisis has with every other issue. It’s a catalyst for the culmination of hundreds of climate activists who won’t stop fighting until the climate emergency is over.” MORE

 

Open Letter From College Professors Urges Educators Worldwide to Cancel Class, Join Global Climate Strike

“We risk losing credibility with an entire generation of students if we cannot take action in support of the defining cause of their generation.”

Students take part in a climate rally in London's Parliament Square
Students take part in a climate rally in London’s Parliament Square on May 24, 2019. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Highlighting an open letter now co-signed by 175 teachers that urges educators around the world to cancel classes and join the global climate strike scheduled for Sept. 20, two of the original signatories published an op-ed in The Guardian Friday explaining why striking “in the name of climate justice is a resounding endorsement of learning.”

“We educators need to help strengthen the climate movement, and the start of this school year is an important moment.”
—Jonathan Isham and Lee Smithey, U.S. professors

In the op-ed, Jonathan Isham of Middlebury College and Lee Smithey of Swarthmore College acknowledge the lessons they have learned about the human-caused climate emergency from their own students, youth leaders like Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, and the millions of people who have participated in Fridays for Future demonstrations across the globe.

“No educator is able to join Greta Thunberg as she continues her bold Atlantic crossing, but all of us can follow her lead,” they write, referencing the 16-year-old’s recent trip to the United States via an emissions-free vessel. “We risk losing credibility with an entire generation of students if we cannot take action in support of the defining cause of their generation.”

The professors note that “some educators—and their bosses—might object to striking,” and outline a few reasons why that may be the case. However, they argue, “to strike in the name of climate justice is a resounding endorsement of learning: it turns out the world’s youth have been listening to their teachers all along. They understand the science of climate disruption; they take in the lessons of history; they grapple with the complexity of market forces and the true costs of polluting. In their humanities and social science courses, they hear the voices of those at the margins and then honor their dignity and humanity through the arts.” MORE