These 10 Op-Eds from Youth Climate Strikers Explain Their Need to Take Action

Sunrise Movement
Mar 18 · 12 min read

On March 15, students in over 120 countries skipped school, but it wasn’t just for fun. It was part of a worldwide coordinated effort to call attention to the most pressing threat to their generation — climate change.

Read why these ten teens cut class and how they perceive their future on a warming planet.

Hannah Laga Abram, 18, Santa Fe, NM. (State lead organizer for US Youth Climate Strike & Sunrise Movement)

I am striking school today because I don’t want to live in a world without wilderness.

I am blessed by this land every day, and I am ashamed that my kind have neglected to care for the livelihood of river otter, black bear, wolf, the smell of the desert after a rain. These are what make my life worth living. And they are diseased, as is the earth, as is our own culture.

We are living in the sixth mass extinction. Ice is melting. Forests are burning. Waters are rising. And we do not even speak of it. Why? Because admitting the facts means admitting that we are committing crimes of epic proportions just by living our daily lives. Because counting the losses means being overpowered by grief. Because allowing the scale of the crisis means facing the fear of swiftly impending disaster and the fact that our entire system must change.

But now is not the time to ignore science in order to save our feelings. It is time to be terrified, enraged, heartbroken, grief-stricken, radical. It is time to act.

That is why I have spent the last month frantically organizing a climate strike event in New Mexico. My future is at stake, as are the futures of my friends and family, and whatever next generations we might bring into the world. But our present is also at stake. And whoever is alive at this very moment must have a hand in this fight and a voice in this conversation.

Audrey Lin, 17, Watertown MA (Sunrise)

I am 17 and cannot vote. Young people are not given social or legal agency over their own lives. We are often marginalized in adult spaces, and I’ve spent many conversations waiting for an invitation to speak because the adults talking took automatic authority.

When generations of elected leaders have failed to take action on a crisis clearly and undeniably present, it falls on the shoulders of young people to make change happen. My generation has the solutions, and I am joining the Youth Climate Strike to break the pattern of adults silencing youth voices.

Age is not a measure of knowledge. The climate movement is lead today by young people because we have the most to lose and have the most to say about it. My future is on the line, and the March 15th student strikes are rightfully placing young people in the worldwide conversation on climate action. The collective power of youth around the world is forcing adults to face the reality of climate change and its social impact. We are young, loud, and our concerns are valid. The climate strikes are not about cutting class; we know going to school won’t matter if our future climate is unlivable.

If I am not part of the solution, I am complacent with the problem, and I now know I don’t need an invitation to speak on an issue that blatantly threatens my future.Politicians have sat and watched the climate crisis build for years. They’ve seen the storm develop, and even now when the clouds are dark and heavy, I’m told repeatedly it will not rain. The first raindrops have started to fall. We can either brace for the downpour or take action now so my generation won’t need an umbrella. The climate crisis is old news. What we do about it now is made for the headlines.

Jordan McAuliff, 16, Silver Spring, MD (Sunrise)

I am 16 years old and I’m not going to school this Friday. Instead, I’ll be in D.C. at the U.S. Capitol, striking for action on climate change. I strike because I will not sit quietly and do what I’m told if that means giving up my right to a liveable future.

I am a descendant of Holocaust victims, and I was born in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11. These tragic events allowed for my birth and made my loved ones and me who we are. Because of this, I recognize that terrible things can create good. When I feel overwhelmed by fear about the future, I fight it by remembering that the climate crisis is a chance to create lasting justice, from overpowering greedy corporations to demanding change for people of color who are disproportionately impacted by environmental issues. Supporting the Green New Deal, which prioritizes the most at-risk people and provides alternatives to those corporations, helps me know I’m doing good, not just preventing bad.

We can’t stop climate change without disruption. A wealthy few are so powerful, and a dangerous system is so entrenched, that anything that isn’t “radical” isn’t enough. Yes, the Green New Deal is ambitious. But it’s an investment that my generation and those who will come after need. And yes, it is possible. I’m terrified of what might happen to our planet, but the passion of young climate activists gives me hope. With that energy, anything is possible.

Amy Yang, 16, Morehead, KY (Sunrise)

The beauty of nature I witnessed as a child was ruined the instant I saw the horrors inflicted upon the very place I call home. The sight of the oil spills destroying the water we drink, the act of deforestation cutting away the trees we need, and the release of toxic pollutants into the air that we breathe all angered me. But above all, what angered me most was the amount of human apathy to fix the problem.

I am walking out today to represent the hidden voices of my community that are unheard at the global table. However, I am also walking out to show those voices that they, too, are significant. In order to face the environmental plight we have created for ourselves, each and every one of us must play a part in the process. As the sole benefactor for its devastational decline, we must not only take responsibility for our actions but also seek amends to restore it to its former beauty.

Angelika S., 14, Oakland, CA (8th grade, Youth vs. Apocalypse)

I am participating in the Climate Strike Friday because if we don’t do anything about climate change, it’s continuously going to slowly kill us.

When I learned about climate change through the internet, it terrified me. This made me feel helpless and hopeless. This fear was kept in the back of my head until I was introduced to Warriors for Justice, a student-led club and No Coal in Oakland, which was a campaign opposing to a developer named Phil Tagami who’s building a coal terminal in West Oakland. This brought me relief because I was working for a cause and trying my best to create a change.

But this was the start of our battle. Climate change is real. Have you seen the wildfires from last year? We had to wear to wear masks to even step foot outside of our home because on how toxic the air was. This is the reality we’re living in.

Imagine the future for you, for me, the youth, your kids, your grandkids, and the animals roaming now. What will happen to all of them? Will they live up to the age of 30, without wearing a mask to go outside? This is why we need to fight together. Will you be part of the change, or watch our future perish?

Abigail Leedy, 17, Philadelphia, PA (Sunrise)

I’m striking Friday because I live in Philadelphia, a city I love with my whole heart.

Philadelphia is one of the most polluted major cities in the United States. In Philadelphia, at least 50% of our air pollution comes from fossil fuel projects around the city, most of which are located in low income communities and communities of color.

In Philadelphia, public schools missed five days of school in August and September this year due to excessive heat. In Philadelphia, 156,000 people, or 10% of our population, will be displaced by sea level rise if we don’t make drastic changes to our carbon emissions.

I’m seventeen years old, and my whiteness and privilege shields me from the worst effects of fossil fuel-driven air pollution and climate fueled catastrophes like massive floods. I’m striking because just like me, every seventeen year old girl deserves clean, breathable air and because we all deserve a livable future. I am viscerally terrified about what will happen to the city I love if my elected officials don’t take action that rises to the scale of the climate crisis.

I’m striking because I feel like I have run out of ways to communicate to my elected officials that inaction on the climate crisis is violence, and that it is my life and air and future, and the lives and air and futures of every young person that are on the line.

Julia McKenna, 18, South Bend, IN (Sunrise)

On Friday, March 15th, I will join thousands of students around the world in a school boycott in order to push our politicians to take responsible action against climate change. This movement, started by Greta Thunberg in Sweden, is our way of taking responsibility for an issue that generations of adults have refused to address.

It might seem absurd to suggest that students skip school in order to fight climate change. Shouldn’t we prioritize education over the environment? Shouldn’t we just protest some other time? Can’t we just leave this to the adults?

The short answer to all of these is no. It would be one thing if we were protesting something small. If we were just trying to get out of school for a day. If we could trust our politicians to actively and aggressively tackle climate change without our persistent protests.

But the truth is, what’s really absurd is that I have to grow up in a world on the brink of avoidable tragedy.

It is both irresponsible and immoral to ignore climate change. Doing so puts us further into a world plagued by destruction, disease, poverty, environmental racism, and a complete and utter disregard for science and the value of data. To me, this isn’t a game or an extracurricular or a way to skip school. To us, the stakes are high. And they should be for everyone else, too.

Ashton Clatterbuck, 17, Lancaster, PA (Sunrise)

I was twelve years old when I first confronted a local government official about climate change. Five years ago, Williams Gas Company appeared at our front door and said they were building the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline through our backyard.

My community organized immediately, rising up against this pipeline that threatened to fracture not only our land, but our relationships as well. Over a hundred people crowded the township supervisors’ meeting to show support for an ordinance banning fossil fuel infrastructure in Martic, my township. I spent days walking all over my neighborhood knocking door after door explaining the ordinance to the adults who answered. Yet, in the end, Williams Partners coaxed our supervisors away from our pleas, dangling hefty grants over their heads and they were gone like children chasing an ice cream truck.

At first I stood there watching and learning, and then one day, I realized that I had the right to protest as well. After sitting in on multiple organizing meetings every week, I had a sound understanding of how community organizing works and was excited by the thought of taking action myself. When construction began on the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, I took the action I deemed necessary; I put myself between the land and those who sought to destroy it, resulting in my first arrest at age 16. It became so evident and clear to me that serious change had to happen when children were forced to physically place themselves in harms way to prevent the destruction of our planet.

On Friday, March 15, I and other students in Lancaster county will be skipping school to force attention to the topic of climate change. Too long I have politely approached politicians and community leaders with concerns about climate change and had them dismissed, as though my future doesn’t depend on remedial legislative action. Now, for the sake of our health, safety, and planet as a whole, the youth of this nation are forcing a reaction that appropriately addresses the serious threat that climate change presents. If adults can’t do their job themselves, then the young people of the nation will take the wheel and steer away from the cliff we are currently barreling toward.

Hannah Estrada, 15, San Francisco, CA (Sunrise, involved with Youth vs. Apocalypse)

When I began to advocate for others, environmental justice was almost a completely new concept to me. Adults had mentioned it in school, but no one had ever taken the time to truly educate me on how the environment affects us. No one had ever told me how nearby communities of color and low-income communities had lower life expectancies because of how bad the air was. No one had ever told me that our earth was dying, not just being damaged, but literally dying.

Our government has repeatedly chosen profit over lives, so why would our government choose to do better now? Politicians still refuse to stop taking money from industries that benefit off of the destruction of habitats and communities. People in power choose to destroy sacred indigenous lands for profit. Our own representatives are refusing to listen to us about the concerns of our future. Adults are denying the facts of science to deny the reality of climate change. It’s as if our government is a mourning person in denial.

We are marching and rallying in an effort to bring attention to this issue. We are writing about it, creating art about it, and doing everything in our power to make a difference that will last for generations.

Adam Gould, 13, Cambridge, MA (Sunrise)

My name is Adam and I am a really scared 13-year-old.

Global warming is happening now it will get worse. My home is on a coast and if the oceans rise a little bit, I’ll have an ocean side property which means all my belongings could be flooded.

You see the hurricanes and the amount of people that die and the amount of money we spend on relief, it’s just getting worse. Then politicians complain about how expensive proposals like the Green New Deal are without any bipartisan research. It aggravates me when I see how selfish some people are. It aggravates me so deeply when adults don’t listen to me because I cannot vote and “I don’t have life experiences”.

Well I call B.S. I see every day the disregard for my generation. I see that since we don’t have money, we don’t have power according to politicians. So we need to claim our power. Everyday I hope that our politicians will divest from Big Oil but it doesn’t happen. Even in the leftist state of Massachusetts there is a Congressman who has money invested in fossil fuel corporations. How can that be allowed? When I see this total disregard for the planet — my planet, your planet, our planet — I realize that if we don’t save our planet none of the other issues that I care about matter.

Sunrise Movement

Sunrise is a movement of young people uniting to stop the climate crisis. We are building an army of young people to break the hold of oil and gas CEOs on our politics and elect leaders who will protect the health and wellbeing of all people, not just a wealthy few.

Sunrise Movement

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Sunrise is a movement of young people uniting to stop the climate crisis.

Sunrise Movement

Sunrise is a movement of young people uniting to stop the climate crisis. We are building an army of young people to break the hold of oil and gas CEOs on our politics and elect leaders who will protect the health and wellbeing of all people, not just a wealthy few.

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