Several Hopkins students participated in this historic day of climate activism at New Haven and New York City climate strikes.
The global climate strikes were organized by the youth-led organization Fridays for the Future. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg founded this organization on August 20, 2018 and it has since gained a huge following. Students participating in Fridays for the Future skip school every Friday, sacrificing their education to call on officials to take the climate crisis seriously. The global September 20 action was initiated by Fridays for the Future to align with the September 23 United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City to call youth throughout the world to action. As Geneva Cunningham ’21 described, “For the [September] 20, my Instagram feed was flooded with posts from massive school strikes from around the globe.”
With youth activists taking the lead in the crucial fight for climate action, English teacher Brad Ridky feels “hopeful and a little bit saddened at the same time.” Ridky added that when he was younger, “research had already established the science behind climate change” and since then “the numbers have gotten way, way worse.” Chase Stevens-Scanlan ’22 reflected on the youth leadership: “I think the youth are doing awesome, especially in the age where social media can spread awareness. That is how I stay informed about climate change and the environment.”
While in the past, many deemed climate scientists as ‘alarmists’ for discussing the dangers of climate change, activists, scientists, and politicians are now embracing cli- mate alarmism. When asked what the term ‘climate crisis’ means to him, Ridky shared: “I think it’s my first experience with a genuine existential crisis. We’re talking in very real terms about whether or not tens of thousands of different species will continue to exist, whether entire cultures and populations will continue to exist, and whether humanity will continue to exist in the way we know it.”
Michelle Grutzendler ’22 offered her interpretation: “The climate crisis is the most pressing issue of our time because it concerns the safety of not one social class, race, or nationality, it continues to affect all of us with complete environmental destruction.” It will continue to affect all of us with complete environmental and climate destruction.” Sophie Sonnenfeld ’21 defined the crisis as: “calling on individuals, law makers, and strong community voices to practice, enforce, and encourage change to save our world.” At a local level, governments are beginning to adopt alarmist terminology. This summer, after pressure from the New Haven Climate Movement activists, New Haven joined hundreds of governments around the world when they became the second town in Connecticut to declare a climate emergency.
In order to recognize the climate crisis, Fridays for the Future organizers called on climate activists around the world to unite in orchestrating their own strikes on Sep 20. The New Haven Youth Climate Move ment, made up of local highschoolers, organized the strike in New Haven. The march featured speakers from the local chapter of the Sunrise Movement, Yale students from Fossil Free Yale, Climate Justice speakers from rural Nicaragua, and New Haven youth. Isabel Melchinger ’21 attended the strike because “at this point, raising awareness and supporting the cause is a lot of the fight.”
Protestors marched around the New Haven Green until they reached City Hall. Pausing at each corner to discuss one facet of the climate crisis, speakers touched upon transportation, agriculture, displacement, and justice. At the end of the march, the crowd was invited to participate in a die-in, a spectacle in which everyone sat in silence for two minutes to recognize the destruction wrought by climate change. Sophie Sonnenfield ’21, who attended the strike as a reporter for The New Haven Independent, commented: “It was incredible to see the enormous show of support for the New Haven Climate Movement. My favorite part was the die-in: I feel like that really showed the passion of the crowd.” As the crowd grew, strikers began to over fill the side- walks and block the street. When asked if political activism should be brought to the streets, Ridky responded, “Absolutely. It’s a spectacle, but that’s exactly the point. Sometimes, in the best way possible, you have to make a scene to be seen.”
Stevens-Scanlan and Grutzendler also took to the streets to demand climate action at the New York City climate strike. Grutzendler admitted that while she “went partly to hear Greta Thunberg speak in Battery Park,” she also “wanted to be a part of one of the biggest marches in the world that day.” Stevens-Scanlan also mentioned why she skipped school to attend the march: “As kids, it’s hard to directly affect policy. We can’t vote. Taking activism to the streets and disrupting everyday life to show how much we care is going to make the change.”