How young people will fight climate change

By LAIS SANTORO | September 26, 2019

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COURTESY OF LAIS SANTORO

Student protestors participating in last week’s Global Climate Strike in Washington, DC.

I was on the Charm City Circulator on my way to Inner Harbor on Friday, Sept. 19, when I overheard a conversation about the climate strikes that happened that day. A passenger on the bus said something along the lines of, “Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in climate change and all that and something needs to be done about it. But I just don’t understand what striking from school is going to do, I don’t think it’s effective.” Valid. 

Here is what I have to say about that: four million people, mostly students. That’s how many people took part in the Global Climate Strikes all around the globe this past Friday, and I was one of them. I was one of the students who struck from my classes and my normal routine to protest in front of the Capitol Building. I was the one controlling the Instagram page for Fridays for Future USA, one of the youth-led climate organizations that started striking on Fridays following teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s strikes. I was in D.C., so I saw it all. All the planning, determination, passion, running around. Four million people didn’t go to school or work to demand that the government call this an emergency and take proper action. 

You know what else I saw? I saw a future. 

Most of the students were 16 years old or younger, which is crazy! In today’s generation, elementary students already know what a GPA is. They are already concerned that receiving a B will make that GPA go down, which means they won’t get into a good university and therefore won’t get a good job. Basically, they feel that they will fail at life if they don’t keep a 4.0 throughout their entire student career. They care that much about their education and yet are willing to skip it for a day because they care about the climate crisis.

The youth are going to save the world from this catastrophe before it becomes irreversible. They are the ones propelling this movement forward, planning strike after strike, action after action. I think the youth are the only ones that can get the proper message across to politicians and the government. Young people continue to sway politicians, are voting in the highest numbers ever and are terrified. 

We are terrified. 

Climate-anxiety is real, and youth everywhere are feeling it. Asking themselves, why should I study in school to go to college, get a job, have a family, everything other generations had the chance to do, when that future is unrealistic? When politicians continue to neglect new climate legislation that protects our futures? Why should we be having these dreams of what we want to do with our lives, when it might be underwater in a few decades when our grandkids and great-grandkids will be walking the Earth (or trying to)? 

Students are organizing because that is the only way we will succeed. Other than the elected officials that came out, the speakers at the event were mostly young people. All the students who planned the event had shirts that said “organizer” on the back; there were only young people wearing those shirts.

We have to continue to organize events and mobilize millions of people more effectively; that shows politicians and everyone around the world that we know what we’re talking about and we know what is at stake if we do nothing. We know how to make politicians who have taken money from fossil fuel companies feel guilty for neglecting this issue since the 1970s. Most of the politicians that have been bought out by the fossil fuel industry are on the older side, and will not live to see the catastrophes they have left us behind. They don’t see what supporting this industry will do for the Earth in 10, 20, 50 years. 

They have nothing to fear, but we have our whole future at stake. We have to protect it now. 

Striking has become the preferred option for effecting real change. I myself will start striking on Fridays from this point on because I can miss calculus once a week for this effort. And that is the point of striking: to bring awareness, cause disruption and make people notice issues that matter. Those in Congress and in the White House were elected to represent the people and vote on what matters to the people. We will keep striking until they start doing so. 

We won’t die anytime soon. We won’t let it happen. We have lives to live, years of education to finish, and the whole entire world to save. So, will you #strikewithus? 

Lais Santoro is a freshman from Downingtown, PA studying Public Health. She is involved with Sunrise Movement Baltimore and Refuel our Future.

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