Students plan a worldwide climate strike on Sept. 20. It’s time for adults to join the fight

Climate activist Greta Thunberg at a student strike for the climate in February in Brussels.

Prepare to hear a lot of news about the climate crisis the last week of September.

A solid week of climate action is scheduled for Sept. 20-27 in the U.S. and around the world. The impetus is the movement started by climate activist Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish teenager who is taking a year off school in her push to get others to take on the urgency of the climate crisis.

Thunberg started her #FridaysForFuture movement on her own in 2018, camping out in front of the Swedish Parliament with her sign proclaiming Skolstrejk för klimatet  (“School strike for the climate”). She accused lawmakers of failing to uphold commitments to reduce carbon emissions that were agreed to under the Paris climate accord.

Before long, she was joined by other Swedish students. Then she started traveling to other cities throughout Europe, joined by hundreds, then thousands of other students. She gave a TEDx talk on climate that’s been watched 1.5 million times on YouTube, and 1.3 million people follow her Twitter account.

Thunberg spoke at two sessions of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. She demanded reductions in CO2 emissions at a European Commission conference and spoke truth to power at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“I don’t want your hope,” she said in her Davos speech. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Thunberg and the movement she started organized a global climate strike March 15. Some 1.4 million people in 2,200 cities in 128 countries worldwide joined the effort that day. Now, with even more groups taking part, organizers expect even bigger crowds for another global climate strike on Sept. 20.

In August, Thunberg, who eschews plane travel because of the environmental harm from the high emissions of greenhouse gases, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered yacht to New York City. Besides the climate strike, she will take part in the United Nations Youth Climate Summit on Sept. 21 and address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23. The rest of the week is being called a week of action, which is likely to involve everything from holding sit-ins at pipeline projects to planting trees. Other planned events include music concerts, mass bike rides, teach-ins, people’s assemblies, protests targeting fossil fuel companies, and bike races.

Students got the ball rolling. Now it’s adults’ turn to step up. Why? Because it’s time to show climate deniers that we mean business.

The Global Climate Strike is set to launch Sept. 20. Students are urged to take off school, and employees are asked to skip work for at least part of the day to join the strike. So far, organizations in 150 countries are planning for the strike, and some companies and trade unions around the world are giving workers time off.

350.org put together a video featuring workers and union members who are supporting the action.

Thunberg and 46 other youth climate activists issued the call for adults to join their cause in an opinion piece in The Guardian in May. They want to “unleash mass resistance.”

We feel a lot of adults haven’t quite understood that we young people won’t hold off the climate crisis ourselves. Sorry if this is inconvenient for you. But this is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job. …

Let’s all join together, with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make your voices heard and make this a turning point in our history.

This is about crossing lines — it’s about rebelling wherever one can rebel.

An interactive map at the Global Climate Strike website lets people find details on climate strikes in their area and encourages them to start their own. In the U.S., there are currently 250 events planned in 49 states (what’s your problem, North Dakota?). As the website says:

This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.

Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.

So far, there are 41 international partners in the Global Climate Strike and hundreds and hundreds of regional and local partners on six continents (sorry, no penguins). Many well-known environmental groups are on board, including 350.org, the Climate Reality Project, Food and Water Watch, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Resources Defense Council, NextGen America, Sierra Club, and the Sunrise Alliance, just to name a few. Organizations can register to join the list of supporters.

You can even join a Digital Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20 on any website. Directions describe how to add a line of JavaScript to any page or a plug-in to a WordPress site to display a widget saying that a particular website is joining the strike. Alternatively, the widget can run as a footer to raise awareness while keeping the site open.

350.org has a special website that describes the many ways of getting involved. The website also has resources that people can use to organize their own strikes, including templates, videos, graphics, and presentations. And it’s no surprise that climate activist Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org, is on board for what he says will “almost certainly be the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history.” As he wrote in Yes! magazine:

It’s not a “strike” in the traditional sense, of course — no one is demanding better wages. But we are demanding better conditions. In the most literal sense, the world isn’t working as it should (studies say that increased heat and humidity have already reduced human work capacity as much as 10%, a figure that will double by midcentury). And what we’re saying is, disrupting business as usual is the way to get there. …

But it can’t be just young people. It needs to be all of us — especially, perhaps, those of us who have been placidly operating on a business-as-usual basis for most of our lives, who have rarely faced truly serious disruptions in our careers and our plans. Our job is precisely to disrupt business as usual. When the planet leaves its comfort zone, we need to do the same. See you on the streets on Sept. 20!

The Democratic candidates running for president are on board, too, all with their own climate action plans. While details differ, many include the following (as described in this Washington Post story):

  • Rejoin the Paris climate accord and make the United States a leader on fighting climate change.
  • Make significant investments in clean energy research and creating green jobs.
  • Pay for it with taxes on the wealthy and/or polluters.
  • Require stricter pollution controls and transition away from fossil fuels
  • Hit net-zero emissions within a few decades.
  • Emphasize environmental justice so low-income and minority communities don’t bear the brunt of pollution.
  • Help those who now work in the fossil fuel industry and the communities in which they live make the transition to a new green economy.

Those who care about the planet are going to make a lot of noise on Sept. 20. And just in case those in charge didn’t hear them, they’re planning to do it again a week later on Sept. 27.

In the U.S., we can make a lot of noise at the ballot box on Nov. 3, 2020.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 8, 2019.

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