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The Youth Climate Movement Is Just Getting Started

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On May 24, activists gathered in New York City for the Global Climate Strike, joining over a million people in more than 1,600 cities across the world in demanding that politicians take decisive actions against climate change. Hundreds of protesters, including elementary-school students and their parents, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students marched down Broadway Avenue in midtown Manhattan holding signs advocating for the Green New Deal and depicting the earth on fire.

This latest global strike—the first took place on March 15 and brought together about 1.4 million people in over 120 countries—is evidence of a growing movement of teenagers and youths deeply concerned for our collective future. Many of the teens that marched in May were spurred to action by the photos and videos circulating on social media of the “Fridays for Future” youth climate strikes, first sparked by the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in August 2018. Now, nearly a year after Thunberg’s first protest in front of the Swedish Parliament, the Fridays for Future movement continues to expand its political support worldwide as strikes in the United States and around the world draw in massive crowds of young people.

Organizers and activists are hoping to sustain the energy and momentum behind this booming youth climate movement to push for tangible political change. In New York, Spencer Berg, a co-organizer and group leader with Fridays for Future NYC, said he’s seen support for both the strikes and climate policy grow in recent months. He credits some of the attention policies like the Green New Deal are getting to the strikes and other climate-justice groups. “Activism works, we need activism,” he said. “The more we do, the more we keep going, the more we’ll get done.”

Berg was excited to learn that New York City Council Member Ben Kallos recently announced a “resolution declaring a climate emergency and calling for an immediate emergency mobilization to restore a safe climate.” Berg cited it as further evidence that the strikes were shifting policy priorities and changing public opinion about climate change—earlier in May, the UK Parliament had declared a climate emergency after days of protests by the Extinction Rebellion climate movement. “We also believe that if NYC does it [declare an emergency], it’ll start a domino effect for other cities too,” he said. Eventually, Berg and others hope the city will completely divest from fossil-fuel companies, invest in clean infrastructure, and implement the Green New Deal as soon as possible.

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