Students Strike for Climate Change


When 16-year-old Greta Thunberg first skipped class to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament, she had no idea the impact she would have on the world. Sixty-eight Fridays later, Thunberg ignited a global movement, in which students skip classes on Fridays to protest for climate action. Senior Lia Cohen, who attended a recent strike, stated, “The philosophy behind skipping school on Fridays is simple: why should we study for a future that we are not guaranteed to have?”

Since Thunberg’s first protest, five global climate strikes have taken place, the most recent of which occurred on Friday, Dec. 6. Eleven LHS students trekked into Manhattan, posters in hand, to attend the protest. Senior Djellza Pulatani stated, “I marched because I believe, as one united people, we can make change. But we must want to. Together, we can reverse major damage done to our Earth.”

The strike ran from 12 to 3 p.m. at City Hall Park in Manhattan and was organized by several youth-led climate movements, including Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, and Earth Uprising. After marching along the streets, chanting mantras to demand climate justice, the strikers assembled in City Hall Park to listen to speeches from youth leaders. One of the speakers was 14-year-old Alexandria Villasenor, who has become a major leader in the NYC climate movement and founded Earth Uprising: a coalition of climate activists that aims to educate others on the climate crisis. The Dec. 6 protest marked her 52nd consecutive strike. Cohen stated, “It was inspiring to hear from the speakers, who were mainly our age or younger, because they are so educated and involved in the climate movement.”

The last to speak to the crowd was New York State Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer revealed a plan that he drafted called, “Clean Cars for America.” He stated, “Under my plan, not one new car that is sold will have an internal combustion engine by 2030, and every new car on the road will be electric or hydrogen by 2040.” However, many were critical. Cohen stated, “When he was speaking, the crowd began chanting ‘Green New Deal’ and instead of expressing support, he talked about his plans if he becomes Senate Majority Leader.”   

The strike was especially timely as, just four days prior, world leaders began their two-week meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP25, to ensure that the agreed-upon actions from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to just two degrees Celsius are implemented. In addition, COP25 aimed to discuss new plans of action and determine how far each country will go in its climate-action policy. Perhaps more than any previous COP summit, COP25 is garnering international media attention since it is being held just weeks before 2020, the year the Paris Climate Agreement goes into effect. As COP25 was held in Madrid, Spain, Greta Thunberg joined 500,000 marchers there to demand that world leaders listen. Thus, many speeches at the NYC strike were geared towards this issue. Many of these speeches urged world leaders to enact policies strict enough to effectively curb the climate crisis, and pushed that, as a major world leader, America is to be part of the solution.

As the Trump Administration announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, this may be the last global climate change conference where the United States participates. As it is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, America not enacting climate action may prevent other country’s mitigation efforts from being effective. Senior Elena Grajales stated, “I think that America is far behind other nations in our stance on climate change. I attended a NYC protest over the summer and met a girl from London who was very involved in climate striking. She said that at home, they get 20,000 protesters weekly. The day I protested, there were five of us.”

Overall, the LHS students who attended the climate strike found the experience rewarding. Pulatani stated, “I rejoiced in the fact that there are, in fact, people who care about what is happening to our globe.” Despite alarming reports over the severity of the climate crisis and political discord over enacting solutions, youth-led climate movements are bringing hope to stopping climate change. Cohen stated, “I urge anyone who remotely cares about the fate of our planet to attend these protests. You will be part of history.”