THE GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE IS HERE!!!
Hello! The day has finally come, people have come out all across the world at over 4,500 strikes globally and over 1,000 just in the US. Over 250,000 people have taken to the streets in New York City alone.
What exactly is this global climate strike anyways? How did it start?
It begins in 2018 with the one and only Greta Thunberg. Greta did not go to school from August 20th until September 9th in 2018 to protest climate change on the steps of the Swedish parliament. After this initial period of striking, she continued to strike every Friday.
At first, the lawmakers she had been seeing daily, then weekly, ignored her. But as other children began to join her in the Swedish capitol and the school strikes spread internationally she began to grab the attention of world leaders. She was invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where she gave a speech with the famous words “Our house is on fire.”
Since then, she has been catapulted onto the global stage as THE leading climate change activist and face of the growing school strike movement #fridaysforthefuture.
So, today is the Global Climate Strike. Youth have been striking internationally for over a year, and today the rest of us are urged to join them.
All of this, is what led up to my stomach full of butterflies as I rode my bike to the Village Bakery in Athens for our local climate strike.
I was feeling oddly anxious. What if it’s massive and overwhelming? What if no one comes and it’s depressing? What if, somehow, someone knows about something unsustainable I’ve done and yells at me? What if I don’t know anyone?!
I know that none of those things are the point of the Climate Strike, and I felt a bit selfish for being so in my head. I did my best to shake off the anxiety and focus on thinking about the planet as I pulled my bike into the bustling parking lot out front of Village Bakery.
I was relieved to see a moderate turnout. The parking lot was filled with booths from the prominent local environmental groups, bicycles, pot luck food, and of course, people. It took me a little while, but I eventually got into the social mood and began talking to acquaintances and new folks alike.
The main activities of the local strike are as follows:
- “Flash Mob” Tree Planting
- Potluck Brunch
- Press Conference
- Walk and roll march culminating at the courthouse
How was it you ask? Honestly, pretty amazing.
First major activity was tree planting. A local landscaping company (whose name I’ve forgotten or I would surely recognize them) was kind enough to donate trees and plants as well as instruct the strikers who volunteered to plant. Before we made the four block trip to Factory Street Dance Studio, the local charity whose lawn we planted on, a striker from the Athens Justice Choir taught us environmental songs.
As the last few strikers returned to the bakery from planting, the press conference was getting ready to start. I took the opportunity to get some free t-shirts made while I had time.
A local business was actually screen printing environmentalist sayings and logos onto used shirts donated by a local thrift store. I absolutely loved this, as I’ve wanted a shirt to show my support for the planet for a while but was definitely not going to buy anything new. The shirt on the left is actually a boxy t-shirt dress and I picked it up to wear as a nightgown, the one on the right is just a normal tee I plan to wear around that will hopefully help start some conversations.
The press conference only had one press outlet filming. But there were a handful of photographers and reporters from student publications reporting as well. Various sustainability leaders from the community stood up to give empowering speeches to the assembled crowd. To see and hear the stories of so many dedicated activists was truly inspiring.
Finally, to wrap up our day we had our “walk and roll” climate march. We were split into two groups traveling alternate routes to the local courthouse, one group on foot and one on wheels. I was, of course, on my bicycle and I must say we had the best time hooting and hollering as we rolled through the streets.
We made sure to take up all the lanes of traffic and bike at a comfortable, not too quick, pace. There was something so fun and exhilarating about taking over the streets in an environmentalist biker gang, the whole group was practically giddy by the time we finished.
Once both groups reconvened at the courthouse we circled up for some chants. Then, it was time for strikers to take the stage, anyone who had something to say was invited to climb up onto the bench in the center of crowd and say their piece.
About two dozen strikers decided to speak up. Many expressed appreciation for their fellow protesters, some brought attention to environmental issues not discussed in the press conference, others expressed their anger and passion, the striker from the Athens Justice Choir led us in song again.
This was my favorite part. When we were all gathered at the center of town listening to the words of fellow strikers and seeing their passion, it was inspiring. I teared up a little and felt truly hopeful.
My tears of joy explained why I was so anxious in the morning. As much as I wanted to lend my voice to the strike, I was also relying on the strike to lift my spirits.
Most people I know aren’t active about or interested in becoming active about climate change. I, as many environmentalists do, get a lot of people who think what I’m doing isn’t worth it or outright silly. It is so easy to feel despondent and hopeless about climate change, but spending my morning with fellow strikers was so restorative and revitalizing.
Maybe our event was small. But dammit, we made our voices heard as loudly as possible.
The climate strike was amazing, but today is only the beginning. Today’s Friday strikes kick off a week of climate activism aimed to force the U.N. to finally take real action on climate change when they meet in New York City this Monday for the Climate Summit.
If you’re reading this, I urge you to go to an event in your city.
If there aren’t any, organize an event. Even if that event is just you and a few friends sitting outside the local courthouse with signs, look at all that just one Swedish teenager was able to inspire.
Did you attend your local climate strike or other activist events this week? Leave me a comment and tell me about the great work in you area!