By: Ella Van Niel

Climate change has become one of the most pressing issues of today’s politics. According to the Washington Post, “the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that if Earth heats up by an average of 2 degrees Celsius, virtually all the world’s coral reefs will die; retreating ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could unleash massive sea level rise; and summertime Arctic sea ice, a shield against further warming, would begin to disappear.” 

However, changes in the environment are not the only effects of global warming. Climate change disproportionately affects people of color, perpetuating disparities created by segregation, disenfranchisement, and income inequality. According to The Nation, minority communities inhale 40% more polluted air than white people do, and “African-American children are three times as likely to suffer an asthma attack.”

These implications have caused teenagers across the globe to strike to demand government action on climate change, because time to prevent irreversible climate change is running out. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that “there is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed… Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.” According to Electrek, there were over 3,500 climate-change related events planned for the week of September 20th – 27th, spanning 117 countries around the world.

My friend, Enya Xiang, is one of the organizers of the youth climate strikes in Philadelphia, and I asked her some questions about the process:

  1. What made you decide to organize a climate strike?

I decided to organize a climate strike because my friend, Sabirah, asked if I wanted to, and I said “yes” pretty much on a whim. I had always been interested in politics and social justice, but I didn’t really know how to act on it. I felt pretty useless. The strikes was the perfect chance to do something! 
2. What do you hope the strikes will accomplish?

I hope the strikes make people want to be proactive about the future. The strike isn’t the end; it is the starting point for changing our future. I want people to be encouraged to challenge power and vote out leaders who don’t give a damn about the people they represent. Also, people need to understand that metal straws will not save the world. Climate change is caused by much greater systematic forces and oppressions than that. How about we just not use straws at all? You know, drinking straight out of a cup is fine.

3. What advice would you give to kids at other schools who want to organize a strike?

Civil disobedience is rebellion, literally going against the norms set by the world, so you need to be tough. Act professional: there will be unconvinced adults that will not take you seriously. Lastly, teamwork makes the dream work!