Everything You Need to Know About the Global Climate Strike

The weeklong global climate strike from September 20th to 27th saw the gathering and protesting of a record 7.6 million people in over 180 countries.  Participants have created and attended more than 6,000 events for the purpose of, as seen on the strike's website, “Stopping the burning of fossil fuels and ensuring a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations, and climate justice at its heart.” Some events chose to highlight specific pipelines, mines, or the banks funding them, whereas others focused on oil companies, enabling politicians, and raising community awareness. Common to every event, however, was the overwhelming presence of youth activists. In order to get a first-hand account of the climate strike in D.C., I spoke to two American University students: Owen Arquette and Nicole Adams.

Owen, 20, Sophomore, studies political science

Her Campus American University (HCAU): Did you miss classes for the strike?

Owen: Yes, two.

HCAU: Describe the strike.

Owen: It started out as a march from Judiciary Square to Marshall Park. After about 1 mile of actual marching it turned into a rally. Indigenous groups represented by local Native American tribe members spoke, along with a couple congressmen and youth speakers.

HCAU: What did you understand to be the mission statement of the strike?

Owen: It really felt youth-dominated. We’re the generation that will be impacted most by climate change but we don’t have the power to really do anything about it so really we’re asking for help.

HCAU: Why did you go?

Owen: This is the most important issue to me, and really the world right now, and I needed to be a part of that. It was solidarity showing.

HCAU: What did you feel the strike accomplished?

Owen: It succeeded in showing youth passion, inspiring people further, and proved what the youth can accomplish.

HCAU: Did your political leanings affect your participation?

Owen: Yes absolutely. It shouldn’t be a political issue, though, but it’s painted that way in the news.

Nicole, 19, Sophomore, studies international relations

HCAU: Describe the strike.

It was smaller than I thought it would be. When I got there the focus was on indigenous people and making sure they aren't forgotten because they are affected the most. Some of them spoke and sang a song. There were also a couple congressmen that spoke. Some people were banging drums in the crowd. There were definitely a lot of students and parents with children. Some teachers had brought their students.

HCAU: What did you understand to be the mission statement of the strike?

Nicole: I think the mission statement was that we are in a climate crisis and it is disproportionately affecting people and we need the government's help top stop it, but because they aren't doing enough young people are working on it ourselves.

HCAU: Why did you go?

Nicole: I went to be surrounded by people who are passionate and panicking about this issue (like me) and to give my support to try to rally Congress.

HCAU: What did you feel the strike accomplished?

Nicole: I don't think that particular strike accomplished that much. I think if it has been during the weekend there would have been more participation. I think at the end of it all the politicians still have their political views. However I think it showed young people that we are passionate and show up to things and no one is alone in this crisis.

HCAU: Did your political leanings affect your participation?

Nicole: I definitely think the majority of people at the strike were democrats, but I don't think that limited anyone.

HCAU: Anything you want to add?

Nicole: The sign that moved me the most was being held by a young girl (8 or so) that said "I don't want to be the last generation." That really moved me.

Why did the strike happen now?

The global climate strike on September 20th was meant to coincide with the September 23rd “UN Emergency Climate Action Summit." The strike was the culmination of efforts by many organizations and activists such as 16 year old Greta Thunberg towards youth-driven climate activism. Months ago Greta created the “Fridays For Future” school strikes for climate change, wherein every Friday she would skip school to protest outside of her Swedish parliament. Many students across the world have followed in her and other’s footsteps by skipping school to protest for climate change awareness. New York City education officials even offered to excuse the absences of any of its 1.1 million public school students who wanted to participate in the climate strikes of September 20th and 27th.

Although 65 countries announced efforts to achieve zero emissions by 2050 and several asset fund managers and businesses made similar proclamations, the overall outcome of the climate summit was unsatisfactory in terms of the necessary steps needed to keep the earth below 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to the UN, the last 5 years have been the hottest on record, which is why we’re starting to see life-threatening impacts such as heat waves and risks to food security. The latest analysis shows, however, that if we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years we will be able to reach that less-than 2 degrees Celsius goal.

What can YOU do?

If you weren’t able to attend the climate strikes but are looking for other ways to make an individual impact, here are some options as outlined by globalclimatestrike.net:

  1. Join a local group and call on local institutions to transition to 100% renewable energy (to find an organization near you, look at globalclimatestrike.net).
  2. Cut ties with fossil fuels companies.
  3. Sign up for the global climate strike online workshops and "skill-ups" to learn about more complex issues such as movement building and divestment globally along with the most impactful actions you can take.
  4. Add your name to the many petitions (some of which are found on globalclimatestrike.net) such as Fossil Free Facebook or Ban Fracking in South Africa.
  5. Reduce your personal waste. Don’t use plastic silverware or straws, recycle and compost, reduce your use of personal transportation and opt for public transportation.

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4