Sixteen Year Old Environmental Activist Inspires Global Climate Strike


Tobias Shwartz AFP/Getty_Images

Climate Change March was attended by 7.6 million people.

Rose Cioffi, Staff Writer

On Friday, September 20th, millions of students from more than one hundred different countries skipped school for a single purpose: climate change. Inspired by sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, these protests took place in major metropolitan areas across the world, including Melbourne, Sydney, London, Jakarta, Istanbul, Quebec, and New York, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators alone. The Global Climate Strike, which began three days before the UN Climate Summit in New York City, brought a total of nearly 7.6 million people and gained the support of hundreds of organizations worldwide.
Thunberg, the driving force behind The Global Climate Strike, began protesting climate change in 2018 in Sweden. She has since attracted international attention, spoken to world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit, gained nearly eight million Instagram followers, and selected for multiple environmental awards. Thunberg recently received and declined the Nordic Council Environmental Award, explaining, “The climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power to start to listen to the current, best available science”.
Thunberg appeared at the NYC Climate Strike, during which demonstrators assembled at Foley Square, marched to Battery Park, and held a rally with dozens of speakers, including Thunberg herself. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio exempts nearly 1.1 million students from the school on the day of the strike, allowing students to exercise their first amendment rights without fear of being penalized. Mayor de Blasio’s exemption came as a pleasant surprise to environmental activists, NYC high school students, and the organizers of the protest. That Friday, Mayor de Blasio’s office tweeted, “The #ClimateStrike is about our future. Either we have one, or we don’t”. Later, NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released a statement calling out climate change denial that read, “Our young people understand climate change is no longer up for debate — it’s reality-based in science.” Climate strikes, both globally and in NYC, were led predominantly by students. Mayor de Blasio and the decision of the DOE were heavily critiqued by deniers of climate change, who claimed that Mayor de Blasio was promoting a political agenda by leveraging school attendance.
The UN Climate Action Summit was held in New York three days later, on September 23d. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened this summit in an attempt to raise international ambition, increase overall climate action, and address the Paris Agreement. It was here that Thunberg addressed global leaders by stating, “You are failing us. But young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you”. In her address, she explains the realities of climate change that have already begun to affect hundreds of communities across the world. She addresses the urgency of this issue while calling out leaders who have not committed to radical solutions. Thunberg has since continued to travel the world, visiting areas affected by climate change, and meeting with influential figures.
The Global Climate Strikes may have ended, but Thunberg’s influence has had international ripple effects. In many countries, activists and students have continued protesting. Thunberg recently attended a protest in Vancouver of over 15,000 people, taking place more than a month after the Global Climate Strike. She plans to continue attending marches like this one as she travels to different countries.