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Here’s What Gen Zers From The DC Climate Strike Had To Say About Climate Change

Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old environmental activist from Sweden inspired thousands of students to strike for the necessary attention towards climate change. In December 2018, at the UN climate conference, she confidently told the audience, “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

Months before, in August of the same year, she went on a strike in front of the Swedish parliament for three weeks, gaining international buzz. Thunberg’s actions sparked emotion in teens’ hearts all over the world, inspiring them to rise up and start a movement. Climate Strike accounts for cities around the word sprouted up all over social media and gained followers by the thousands.

I’ve talked to a couple of teens who participated in the DC strike about why they went and its impact.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Helena, high school junior

Q: How long have you been interested in climate activism?

Helena: I came to this realization in freshman year. In tech, we watched videos about the meat industry and it was shocking, to say the least. I did my own research on it and the amount of CO2 these corporations emitted were and still are absurd.

Q: At what point in your life did you realize that global warming was a serious problem?

Helena: I started a club with my friend Celine called green minds. In the said club, we teach students how to advocate on the earth’s behalf and how they can contribute to the mission we are on to reduce our carbon footprint.

Q: Can you explain what happened at the strike in front of Capitol Building?

Helena: We heard a couple of speeches and did some chants then a performer came on to sing an original song. We also wrote letters to our representatives which were super cool.

Courtesy of Helena M.

Q: What does the climate strike mean to you?

Helena: The climate strike was our way of telling Congressmen and women that it is time to take action. Though the earth’s “signs” should have been enough. Those being polar vortexes, wildfires, floods, drastic temperature changes etc. this was an opportunity for the youth to advocate for the earth and all the people and living organisms on it and to protest for those who couldn’t.

Q: How has the strike impacted you and your decisions from now on?

Helena: The strike really encouraged me to take action in my community because starting small is still more than Congress seems to be doing.

Courtesy of Eva M. (pictured right)

Eva, high school junior

Q: How long have you been interested in climate activism?

Eva: I’ve been interested in climate activism since I went to the march for science a couple of years ago and I realized the actual impact of climate change.

Q: At what point in your life did you realize that global warming was a serious problem?

Eva: A couple of years ago, because after the March for Science I started researching climate change and I saw how severe all the effects were.

Q: What do you do to help combat climate change in your day to day life?

Eva: To combat climate change in my life, I walk home from school instead of driving, and I try to use public transportation rather than getting in a car. I also try not to use many things that have a large plastic content.

Q: How was it hearing Representative Ilhan Omar speak?

Eva: Hearing all of the speakers opened my eyes even more to how badly we’ve treated our planet, and I thought it was a really inspirational strike to go to. Hearing Ilhan Omar speak, it was really empowering to hear one of our leaders telling us that the youth empowerment movements are heard across the globe and that our voice doesn’t go unheard.

Q: What does the climate strike mean to you?

Eva: The climate strike means a lot to me as my generation is the one that has to deal with the problems left behind by older generations, and I want to grow up in a safe and healthy environment.

Q: How has the strike impacted you and your decisions from now on?

Eva: The strike has made me more conscious about choices I make about simple things, such as recycling and even using plastic straws. Since it is getting warmer out, I want to try to walk to places instead of drive, so I can reduce my carbon footprint.

Courtesy of Montse G. (pictured right)

Montse, high school sophomore

Q: How long have you been interested in climate activism?

Montse: I have been interested in helping the planet since I found out that it was in danger, so when I was about 7 years old.

Q: At what point in your life did you realize that global warming was a serious problem?

Montse: I think that I realized that global warming was a serious problem when the climate in my country was getting warmer than usual. It used to be mild [sic] climate, but then it started to get so warm that I would wear short sleeves in winter.

Q: What do you do to help combat climate change in your day to day life?

Montse: I try to reduce my plastic use as much as possible. I also help clean up some parks in Bolivia when I go there.

Q: Can you explain what happened at the strike in front of Capitol Building?

Montse: At the strike, there were speeches from the girls who started the movement, amongst them [sic] there was an eight-year-old! Then, there was a performance from Rebel Rae, and then the speeches of Representative Omar and her daughter. After that, we did 11 minutes and 45 seconds of silence in honor of the 11 years that we have left to stop climate change and (then) 45 lives lost in New Zealand.

Courtesy of Montse G.

Q: How was it hearing Representative Ilhan Omar speak?

Montse: Hearing Representative Omar speak was so inspiring! It showed me that some adults are conscious about climate change and they actually care about fixing things for the future. I loved hearing about her Green New Deal proposal and how it would help prevent further damage to the environment.

Q: What does the climate strike mean to you?

Montse: The Climate Strike means a lot to me. I think that it is a very powerful movement that is going to help save many lives and our planet.  It was nice seeing so many people all over the world come together over something that concerns us all.

Q: How has the strike impacted you and your decisions from now on?

Montse: Thanks to the strike, I will start to care a lot more about the issue. I will stop eating as much meat (as my mom lets me), take shorter showers, stop using plastic straws, and I’ll tell my friends and family to do the same. We really need to start taking drastic measures.

Q: Any final thoughts?

Montse: Everyone should care about climate change. It is real, and it is coming for us if we don’t do something to stop it. This Earth is our home, we don’t have anywhere else to go. And it is not just for us, the animals and plants will suffer the consequences of our human stupidity. We have 11 years until the Point of No Return, but that means that we have 4,018 days to fix the mess we’ve done.

Because of the thousands of Climate Strikes held around the world on March 15, it pushes us to face the facts: we have eleven years until we reach the point of no return. Here are some key lessons I’ve learned from the climate strike:

Takeaway #1: Start small. You don’t have to create an international organization to make waves. A good place to start is organizing a club/event at your school and in the local community.

Takeaway #2: There are many ways to lessen your carbon footprint such as walking/biking to places if possible, eating less meat, taking shorter showers, and using more reusable products.

Takeaway #3: Don’t do it all alone. Educate your friends and family about climate change too! 

Photo: Montse G.

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Daryl Perry
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Daryl is a 17-year-old feminist and photography enthusiast who dreams of becoming a film director and journalist. In her spare time, she sings, dances, and of course writes!

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