Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now

You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.

Politics and Nation

Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

School strikes for climate on September 20th: Why teens are seizing their future

Students from 1700 New York schools - inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg - will pour into the streets on Sep 20 demanding that world leaders act to save the planet. An Indian teen at a New York school writes why he will be there.

Updated: Sep 19, 2019, 01.17 PM IST
The movement started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, in which students refrain from school on Friday to protest inaction on climate crisis.
By Amogh Dimri

This past August 30th — the last Friday before New York City public schools open their doors for the 2019-20 academic year — I ditched haphazard plans with friends, residual summer homework, and college essay drafting to be part of something more important: the Fridays for Future climate strike right outside of the United Nations.

The movement started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, in which students refrain from school on Friday to protest inaction on climate crisis. And this time, strikers were led by none other than Fridays for Future originator Greta Thunberg herself. The strike marked the first of those led by Ms. Thunberg in the United States, and since has continued her unique grassroots strain of protesting. More recently, she continued her school strike with students in the US again on September 6th at the UN and outside the White House in Washington D.C. this past September 13th. The slated September 20th global climate strike is a testament to Ms. Thunberg’s personal power, minimalist philosophy, and assertive conviction.

In the past strikes, I asked fellow teens, “what is the biggest obstacle to achieving climate justice?” Overwhelmingly, they resounded: complacency. Whether it be among politicians, corporations, or everyday people, the protest had a latent goal: to affirm that the ‘business as usual’ mindset must go and the ‘house is on fire’ mentality must be ushered in. Yet after following up to see if they felt those in power were listening to their message, the teens drew a distinction: they were being heard, but not listened to.

This Friday, students in New York will walk out of their classrooms in defiance of this ignorance to the climate crisis and gather in Foley Square to chant, hold a die-in, wave their signs, and share their stories. The events will signify the harsh realities of climate change and aim to be so loud that world leaders gathering for climate talks just a few blocks uptown at the UN Headquarters cannot remain deaf any longer. This active complacency must be called out.

What students are asking for are transformative solutions. Solutions from our leaders that revolutionize our global economy to be sustainable. Solutions to protect wildlife and ecosystems worldwide. Solutions to safeguard the future. Above all, solutions that will achieve climate justice and not leave any community unprotected.

The detrimental effects of ignorance to climate effects are all too personal for the strikers. Shiv Soin, 18, founder of the environmental advocacy nonprofit TREEage says he was hospitalized in his home country of India because of air pollution. Fridays for Future organizer Xiye Bastida Patrick, 17, was forced to emigrate from Mexico because of drought. Teens from New York recalled being displaced after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

Ignorance, nevertheless, also comes in the form of passivity. Too often, adults in support of the movement tokenize youth activism. At a recent rally, they commended our die-in and personal anecdotes for the powerful message it sent to world leaders. They insisted that it is young people who will change the world — as they walked by.

In a sense, their distant support is yet another breed of complacency: they respect the movement from afar and imagine they are therefore excused of the burden to protest. Such a fantasy is especially appalling from a generation whose consumerism and lax tendencies have put my future under precarity.

As tokens, we youth activists are chided by those actively opposing us and also those passively understanding us. We are expected to be grateful for the platform we are given, and patted on the head for our commitment. The upcoming strike is especially important because it is an open letter written by the youth to respond to this.

Yes. We are grateful for our platform but indignant in the face of attempts to coddle us. And now, teens around the world will be striking, and their eyes and minds will be on world leaders at the climate talks at the UN. Further, the strike will be the largest of its kind to date — the decision by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to grant amnesty for school striking teens highlights this. But what remains truly unprecedented about the upcoming strike is that this time it will be students who will take back their future for themselves.

While the problem of climate change is an outcome of an iniquitous global order, climate action needs a civil disobedience movement of a global order that brings stories of climate vulnerabilities, action, and resilience in unison against the power structures. As democratic theorist Hannah Arendt asserted in her Reflections on Civil Disobedience , “Civil disobedience arises when a significant number of citizens have become convinced… that the normal channels of change no longer function, and grievances will not be heard or acted upon.” September 20th promises to be a global act of civil disobedience, which while not illegal, is about having a democratic space to speak and be listened to.

Amogh Dimri is High School Senior at Columbia Secondary School, New York. He runs a podcast series - Under Precarity: A Podcast of Stories
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.
Download The Economic Times Business News App for the Latest News in Business, Sensex, Stock Market Updates & More.

Other useful Links

Follow us on

Download et app

Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service