Climate Strike takes the Fayetteville Square

I am 16-years-old and I have been a climate justice organizer since 2018. I started as a community organizer in Miami, then as the 2019 school year started my non-profit, Zero Hour Arkansas, came to life. My organization gives climate action presentations to middle and high schools, lobbying my City Council to adopt more sustainable schools and fighting for marginalized communities to be represented.
Anxious about our future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, masses of young people, just like me, poured into the streets on every continent on Friday for a day of global climate protests. Organizers estimated the turnout to be around four million in thousands of cities and towns worldwide.
It was the first time that children and young people had demonstrated to demand climate action in so many places and in such numbers around the world.
Friday is projected to be the largest mobilization for climate action the world has ever seen.

Kids just like me turned out in force in Berlin, where the police estimated 100,000 participants, with similar numbers in Melbourne and London. In New York City, the mayor’s office estimated that 60,000 people marched through the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan, while organizers put the total at 250,000. By the dozens in some places, and by the tens of thousands in others, young people demonstrated in cities like Manila, Kampala and Rio de Janeiro. A group of scientists rallied in Antarctica. Even in Fayetteville, Arkansas people came together to rally for change.
More than 1,000 protested in Arkansas, in what organizers said was the largest climate action in Arkansas’ history. The rally shut down key public transport corridors for hours. Certainly, this is not the first time in modern history that young people have galvanized around a cause. Young people led social movements against the Vietnam War and for civil rights in the United States.
“You had a future, and so should we,” demonstrators chanted as they marched through Fayetteville
Then, “We vote next.” Banners ranged from serious to humorous. One read, “Climate Emergency Now.” Another said, “This planet is getting hotter than my imaginary boyfriend.” Whether this action solves the problem that the protesters have identified — arresting greenhouse gas emissions to stave off a climate catastrophe — now depends on how effectively climate advocates can turn Friday’s momentum into sustained political pressure on governments and companies that produce those emissions.

In no way was Friday the end goal but is only a catalyst for future mobilization. We will continue to strike. The challenge is translating something that is a global movement into a kind of concentrated political pressure that can influence government decisions. It needs to be translated to influencing decision-makers who are not already convinced. So too against apartheid and in the global antinuclear movement. The youth climate movement is different, say those who study social protests. At a time of fraying trust in authority figures, children — who by definition have no authority over anything — are increasingly driving the debate. Using the internet, young people are organizing across continents like no generation before us. And though our outsize demands for an end to fossil fuels mirror those of older environmentalists, our movement has captured the public imagination far more effectively. I believe what is unique about the climate movement is that young people are able to see their future is at risk today.

Why do I do this? I am striking for the future. By 2030, in order to prevent 2.7 degrees of global warming, the IPCC reported, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels. In 2030, I will be 28-years-old. By that time, we must already be on the path toward climate recovery. I am driven by a desire to see the beauty of the world survive and exist not only for me but for generations that come after. If adults want youth to be studious and pay attention in school to prepare for our futures, then they need to do their jobs to make sure that a future exists for us.
I am striking because it is pointless to study for a future that does not exist.
I am striking for complete system change. Will you strike with me?

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