In every movement, a young generation has fought for their beliefs and pushed for social or political change. Anti-Vietnam opposition movements, 9/11 marches, and school walkouts for gun control are arguably among the most well-known examples of youth leadership. With this same determined spirit, on September 20th, millions of people of all ages poured through the streets across the world and fought for world leaders to take more action against climate change. The strike was particularly significant because young people were its leaders: the strike’s trailblazer, Swedish sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, began her first climate demonstrations in 2018 when she stood before the Swedish Parliament Building with a sign reading “school strike for climate change.” At first, she was just a school girl protesting on her own. Now, in cities around the world, there are young people following Thunberg’s example.
On the day of the strike, in Long Beach, California, ten-year-old Ailou Sullivan held a sign reading, “There is no planet B.” After hearing of climate change for the first time in fourth grade, he and his father tried to use bikes, walking, and public transportation to reduce their carbon footprint. Ailou says, “I’m kinda mad about how the Earth is changing, it shouldn’t be changing…I hate watching trucks, the exhaust coming out.” College student Skate Courduff is also concerned not only for her future, but for the future of coming generations. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she states that she is infuriated “knowing that [the future generations] are not going to have a world with good natural resources, not going to have clean air to breathe.” She continues, “Leaders all over the world, especially President Trump, have to do something.”
Research conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) indicates that since 1880, the total temperature of the Earth has risen by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit; as a result, eighteen out of the nineteen hottest recorded summers have happened after 2001. The provided images show a rise in temperature in a span of just thirty years from 1980 to 2018. In the first image taken in 1980, the shades of yellow represent temperatures zero to two degrees Fahrenheit higher than average. The dark red and orange in the second image, taken in 2018, show temperatures three to four degrees Fahrenheit higher than average. Over the years, the Earth’s temperatures overall have risen; however, northern regions are the most severely impacted. This is due to rapidly melting polar ice caps that are unable to cool those areas. In correlation to rising temperatures, another NASA study found that each year, Earth loses 413 gigatons of ice sheets and rises 3.3 millimeters in sea level. Although it may not seem as though these environmental changes are directly affecting humans currently, they are severely impacting wildlife. Ice sheets serve as crucial habitats for several species, such as polar bears and harp seals. When ice sheets melt, wildlife populations suffer and decline. Melting ice sheets are in direct correlation with declines in wildlife populations.
Many believe that their actions won’t help to relieve the issue of climate change. However, numerous studies conducted by renowned organizations such as National Geographic and NASA show that every individual’s carbon footprint plays a part in either exacerbating or reversing the environmental damage already inflicted. Greta Thunberg was once just another teenager fighting for what she believed was right. Now, she is the leader of a widespread revolution backed by millions of people who are also fighting for their futures. Although the climate change strike took place among several countries and amongst people of many different cultures, the younger generation led as one voice uniting people for the same cause. Even though the protesters were of all different backgrounds, they seemed to agree on one thing: if nothing is done now, it will be extremely difficult to reverse the environmental impacts of climate change.