“What do we want!?” “Climate Justice!”
“When do we want it!?” “Now!”
Salisbury University students led this chant as they marched down the streets of Washington, D.C. in the Youth Climate Strike protest on Sept. 20.
The Youth Climate Strike was part of a larger global climate protest, with youth organizing strikes in more than 150 countries. Over four million people worldwide participated in this protest, making it likely to be the largest climate protest in history, according to 350.org.
The march began at 11 a.m. in John Marshall Park and ended at the U.S. Capitol around 2 p.m.
Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, ignited the youth-driven movement to advocate for climate justice and started the Fridays for Future movement. Many of the protesters at the event were kids, teenagers or young adults who were on strike from school in order to call attention to climate change.
SU senior Rachel Dubbs, a political science and environmental studies major, was glad she had the opportunity to participate in this global strike.
It was Dubbs’ first protest, and being surrounded by other like-minded youth inspired her to keep fighting for climate justice in the U.S.
“I think it’s really important to advocate for climate change and about different environmental problems going on right now,” Dubbs said. “You have a right to protest, so any chance you get to stand up for what you believe in and get a platform behind it and join a huge group of people, you should do it.”
Many students in attendance were told about the protest from the SU professors organizing the trip.
Shane Hall, professor of environmental studies, helped arrange the trip and believes climate change is a defining issue of our generation and that youth have the power to make real change.
“Climate change is a major issue that people need to confront, and also, the way it needs to be confronted is not through more studies or more science,” Hall said. “It is through the mechanisms of an engaged democratic citizenry. Whether it’s marching or talking to your congressional representatives or conducting nonviolent civil disobedience, these are the things that make democracy work."
Sarah Surak, professor of political science and environmental studies at SU, also organized the trip and attended the Youth Climate Strike with students.
Surak wanted to help facilitate students to see what youth-organized activism looks like and to demonstrate the power youth hold.
“Youth movements have often led to political change for a variety of reasons,” Surak said. “And allowing our students to observe what is going on right now is important because I think we’re at a critical moment in time.”
Students heard from a wide range of speakers, including indigenous youth climate activists, the students who are currently involved in the Juliana v. United States case, representatives from 360.org and members of Congress.
Surak thinks hearing these speakers is an extremely valuable experience for students.
“We went on Friday in particular for students to be able to see these very powerful environmental speeches, especially from members of Congress that we would not see here in Salisbury,” Surak said. “It’s not the same to see speakers on video; seeing them in person is very different and more impactful.”
The Youth Climate Strike was planned the Friday before the United Nations gathered on Sept. 23 for the Climate Action Summit to discuss actions to combat global climate change.
By SOFIA CARRASCO
Featured photos: Sofia Carrasco Images.