Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke alongside other young climate activists at Lisner Auditorium this week, days before young people from around the world take the lead at the second-ever Global Climate Strike.
Thunberg called on the audience – including hundreds of students – to come together and fight climate change to force governments around the world to take action. While Thunberg is younger than most college students, her stances on climate change resonate with young activists. She brings to light pressing global issues, from rising sea levels to burning forests. Students are in the right area of the country at the right time – they should be at the front line of the strike Friday and join the push to address climate change.
The location of the protest is most convenient to students. Protestors in D.C. will march from John Marshall Park – just blocks south of the White House – to the Capitol Building, taking the strike directly to the legislators who can make change happen. Students are less likely to have full-time jobs than District residents and can sacrifice their classes for a day of protesting. Professors and students should understand that ditching class to strike for issues that will affect people years from now is OK when the protest is close to home.
Students have a history of turning out for major protests, including taking on controversial Supreme Court nominations, fighting against white supremacy and calling on the University to divest from fossil fuels. This strike is no different. Students will be more directly affected by climate change in the years to come, and taking part in the strike will show world leaders that the people who take the most issue with climate change will not be silenced.
Students participating in the strike can help to capture the attention of legislators and world leaders. The Global Climate Strike is set just days before next week’s United Nations Climate Action Summit, a meeting of world leaders who come together to discuss plans to fight climate change and accelerate the landmark Paris Climate Accords aimed at combatting the issue. The more people involved, the more likely the strike will garner the attention of world leaders.
It is especially important for more people to join protests in the District because the United States is in a precarious position when it comes to climate change. The United States is expected to leave the Paris Climate Accord, is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gasses and continues to reduce environmental regulations. Encouraging leaders to get behind global solutions to climate change requires massive popular support, and students are in the position to show it.
Millions of people are expected to strike on Friday to fight climate change. Many of them will be children. But college students can participate as well – and GW is in the perfect position for students to take part.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a junior majoring in political science and psychology, is the opinions editor.
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