By Karen Savage
BOSTON—Demanding meaningful action on climate change, hundreds of high school students on Friday poured out of Boston’s Park Street subway station, made their way through the historic Boston Common and gathered on Beacon Hill under the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House.
They joined what is estimated to be more than a million young people in more than 125 countries around the globe in a student strike to protest global inaction on climate change. Many of the young people in Boston held homemade signs as poignant reminders that while climate change affects everyone, their lives—and the lives of future generations—are at stake.
“Money won’t matter when the world is gone,” read one sign.
“Not our fault, but it is our future,” read another.
“Denial is not a policy,” said another in bold green lettering
“Why go to school if our future will be washed away?” asked yet another.
The climate strike was inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who since August has been organizing the Fridays for the Future movement. It culminated in Friday’s school walkouts in countries around the world, including Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, Australia and Japan. The walkout is thought to be one of the largest climate actions in history.
“We have been born into this world and we have to live with this crisis—and our children and our grandchildren,” Thunberg said to the crowd gathered in Stockholm. “We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are.”
Boston-area students have good reason to share her alarm. A report commissioned by the city in 2016 said Boston could experience more than 90 days of 90-degree temperatures per year by 2070, up from just 11 currently. Sea levels could rise more than 10 feet by 2100, leaving nearly 30 percent of the city under water.
“It’s scary because it’s going to be the biggest thing our generation is going to have to deal with,” said George Brown, an 18-year-old senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin.
Brown said given the urgency of the crisis, he wants less talk and more action.
“Everybody’s always talking about this, but the ones who are doing the polluting are industries – we need to pass laws to regulate these companies and reduce emissions,” he said, adding that for his generation, climate change isn’t just something to ponder, but an actual life-or-death situation.
Stanley Aneke, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, who spoke to the crowd and helped organize the event, said it’s imperative that young people speak out now.
“More youth need to come together to get our voices heard, because people right now are listening to our views on climate change,” said Aneke. “The biggest goal for me and most of us who are here today is to get the Green New Deal passed, to get politicians and other leaders to actually get something done—we need to divest in corporations that pollute and cause climate change.”
Proposed by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Green New Deal proposes reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero through a jobs program that would restore ecosystems, decarbonize energy, transportation and industry and upgrade infrastructure. The plan, which is named in part for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, aims to curb climate change and address economic inequity and injustice.
The Green New Deal does not address the legal avenues for demanding accountability for climate change by the fossil fuel industry. But that front in the climate battle also has a youth-led component: the constitutional lawsuit filed by 21 young people against the U.S. government, Juliana v. United States currently awaiting pre-trial appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Organizers of Friday’s climate strike are also demanding the federal government declare a national climate emergency, halt to all fossil fuel infrastructure projects and implement mandatory climate change education. They call for the protection of all public lands, wildlife and water supplies and demand all U.S. government decisions be based on scientific research, including the 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
Alana Moore, 17, from Newton, said she’s tired of hearing politicians talk, but solve nothing.
“I came today to raise awareness of the issue of climate change and to let politicians know that we really care about our future and if they don’t take action on climate, we will,” said Moore.
The young strikers had the support of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), which earlier this week passed a resolution supporting the strike.
“Students throughout history have been a critical driving force of social movements. Regarding global warming and climate change, students are taking what they have learned about science and civics and putting their education into action,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the MTA in a statement.
“The students leading this movement have demonstrated courage in standing up to the powerful forces that want to protect the massive profits being made by maintaining the status quo,” Majimy said.
Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law said the future belongs to the next generation.
“They are telling us what they want, and what they need, and that is action to limit climate change,” Burger said.
“We know what we have to do—all that’s left is to do it.”