As I stood in the New York streets last Friday, surrounded by more highschoolers than I likely had been since I was in high school myself—two things became clear. One—the last thing these climate-protesting kids want is your hope. They are demanding action. Second--we have reached a breaking point. Our children are taking to the streets to claim a future that is not certain.
The clearest expression of this generation’s justifiable impatience came from teen activist Greta Thunberg: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Greta told the United Nations this week. “And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Of course, Greta is far from the only teen stepping up. Teens and young people from communities across the globe have been sounding the alarm for years. Autumn Peltier (above) is a 13-year-old Anishinaabe girl from the Wikwemikong First Nation who plans to speak to world leaders about the rights of water at the United Nations next spring. Isra Hirsi, a co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike and daughter of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, connects the climate crisis to the fight for black lives. 18-year-old indigenous climate activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a powerful leader. He serves as Youth Director with Colorado-based Earth Guardians; along with 18 other young people, he is suing the government for inaction on climate change.
While it is incredible to see these teens step up, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for cooler, younger heads to prevail. One thing these Generation Y leaders know is that it is time to act boldly, to leave politeness at the door and do what it takes to solve the climate crisis.
Lucky for you, if you are here in Washington State—there are ways to get involved right now:
- Sign up to fight Tim Eyman’s I-976. 976 is yet another bad idea from the infamous Tim Eyman. If the initiative passes, it would devastate our already strained transportation system by cutting funding for road and transit projects from Spokane to Seattle, Bremerton to Zillah and all points in between. It would be a disaster for the climate. Find out more here.
- Join the fight for a Green New Deal. Young people know that to change everything, we’ll need to change our society from top to bottom. Join in the campaign spearheaded by the Sunrise movement. Sign up here!
- Get involved with local and regional organizations working on climate issues in your community—organizations like Got Green, Climate Solutions, or local chapters of 350.org, Zero Hour, Our Climate or others.
Last week's Climate Strike brought me to tears—did you feel the same? Marching in the swells of people, alongside hundreds of thousands of others in New York City, Berlin, Sydney, and hearing so many young people calling out. Listen to their voices: they are asking us to do what science and these times demand of us; to remain impatient. As it stands right now, their future is uncertain. How will we respond to this moment?