Kids are back to schooling us on climate change
It’s September: Pumpkin spice is (already?!) in the air, northern states are beginning to mourn the long days of summer, and kids everywhere are headed back to school.
Well, until September 20, at least. That’s the date of the global climate strike, a youth-led effort to get kids and grown-ups alike to call in sick-of-this-shit.
This won’t be the first time the rest of us have been schooled by a bunch of teens when it comes to climate action. In fact, the seven-hour climate town hall held on CNN earlier this week was a surreal, unprecedented culmination of the work youth activists have done to push for more climate-crisis air time. As a climate obsessive since 1989, I gotta say … these kids are better than alright.
So, let’s take a minute to admire those among us who spend study hall planning to save the world. Then, let’s take some time to help. “I don’t want your hope … I want you to act,” says 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Read on for some ideas on how to do that, and to meet a few of the young people who are leading the charge toward a brighter future.
— Chip, Grist Founder
1. Your new hero
How do you get millions of kids across the United States to walk out of school all at once (without playing Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out For Summer” over the loudspeakers)?
Isra Hirsi, that’s how. As executive director of U.S. Youth Climate Strike, an organizing force behind much of this month’s and other climate strikes in the United States, Hirsi helps coordinate youth leaders around the country — all while navigating high school (as if that’s not enough of an existential crisis on its own).
“I respond to texts and messages during the school day, and then I come home at four and that’s when I start doing all my calls,” Hirsi told Grist ahead of a strike last spring. “I have calls every single night. It’s kind of go-time.”
Hirsi, whose mom is Ilhan Omar, the United States’ first Somali-American member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is also trying to get a wider range of people involved in the environmental movement — people whose activism may look a little different from what we’re used to.
Hirsi wrote about that in her recent op-ed for Fix: “I don’t strike every Friday, because I can’t. But that doesn’t mean my activism is not valid. That doesn’t mean that the activism of thousands of youth across the world is not valid.”
(After you read that op-ed, follow Hirsi on Twitter — she’s got some of the best, funniest climate tweets in the game.)
Photo: Grist / Livia Ferguson
2. Your reading list
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has an impressive resume. The 19-year-old is an indigenous activist, hip-hop artist, and youth director of the activist organization Earth Guardians, just for starters. Martinez is also one of 20 youth plaintiffs in landmark climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States, which has put a spotlight on what, exactly, the next generation stands to lose in the face of inaction.
Martinez’s 2017 book We Rise is, in part, an account of his time as an activist — and it might make you feel a tinge of embarrassment about spending your teenage years trying to figure out how to ollie on your friend’s skateboard (just me?). Reflecting on one of his seminal climate speeches, he writes: “I now know that that speech was the culmination of an incredible period of growth in my life. My voice had just dropped, I was sprouting up, and I was taking my fight to a much bigger stage.”
But We Rise is mostly a guide for others who want to make their own waves. Says actor Mark Ruffalo: “This book offers practical solutions for how everyday people can be a part of the most important movement in the history of humanity.”
3. Your pick-me-up
- BALL’S IN EURO COURT: Bill McKibben calls the recently released Green New Deal for Europe “the first attempt at a political response to climate change that is on the same scale as the problem itself.” This Twitter thread from a policy maven at the Democracy in Europe Movement, the group behind the plan, offers a good summary of the blueprint.
- HOPENHAGEN: Did you know that Copenhagen plans to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions 42 percent since 2013? Yup.
- PLAYING CHICKEN: Vegan burger-fanatics, step aside: KFC is getting in on the action with Beyond-Meat fried chicken, and it’s a total hit, selling out at the Atlanta pilot location in a matter of hours.
- STICKS AND STONES: Related, check out Farhad Manjoo’s piece on how we all need to stop mocking vegans. (You may not like it, but them vegans know what’s what.)
- INFORMATION HIGH WAY: Guess what? The internet is pretty damn unsustainable. But here’s the good news: Journalist Maddie Stone wrote a great piece on how we can fix the interwebs.
- OH, THE HUMANITIES: Students around the world have called on their schools to teach them more about climate change. One middle school in Washington, D.C., ran with it, and for the third year is dedicating its entire sixth-grade humanities curriculum to the question of solving climate change.
4. Your next move
- TIME TO STRIKE: Join your fellow concerned Earthlings in the global climate strike, a week of action starting with a walkout on September 20. Check out this website to find events near you, as well as some useful pointers, like how to be a good ally to youth strikers.
- TIME TO GIVE: Donate to a youth-led climate organization, like Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, or U.S. Youth Climate Strike (to name just a few).
- TIME TO TALK: Talk to a kid in your life about climate change. Here are some resources to get you started, whether that kid’s a high-schooler looking for a green job, or a younger sprout who could stand to be reminded that there’s still hope for the future.
5. Your Sunday plans
One other arena in which we should take some cues from Gen Z: the art of protest signage. From the irreverent to the strikingly clever to the just plain silly, here are some of our favorite signs from past climate protests. May they inspire you to make your own.
- Youthful impulsivity might not be such a bad thing right about now.
- Don’t be afraid to include a little profanity in your sign.
- Pop culture references are always a hit. (But be prepared to feel old when the kids in the crowd have never heard of your favorite TV show.)
- Make your sign into a performance art piece!
- There’s nothing wrong with artistic renditions of bikini-clad polar bears, but sometimes it’s best to just keep it simple.
Now, make like a kid and go save the world.