Philly Kids Strike Back in Youth Climate Strikes
Thousands of students around the globe skipped school and took to the streets last Friday to participate in the Youth Climate Strikes. The demonstrations were inspired by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who has spoken up about climate change in Europe and also participated last Friday.
Hundreds joined the strikes in Philadelphia. The group held a rally at LOVE Park from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., gathering crowds of youth of varying ages with colorful signs.
Many signs referenced the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 report claiming that there are only 11 years left to act on climate change. The few years has stirred fear and anger in the hearts of the youth, who feel that there will be no future left for them to grow up in.
The strikes continued later in the day from 3:30-5:00 p.m. on the north side of City Hall. Hundreds of students ran through city hall, quick to form a crowd around the speakers. At the front were three students holding a black banner with “Youth Strike Harder” in yellow lettering.
The crowd was energized and their voices echoed down Broad Street as they chanted phrases like “Climate Change is not a hoax”, “Spill tea not oil”, and “separate oil and state”.
Numerous student speakers gave speeches on their personal experiences with climate change and shining a light on other countries who are experiencing extreme disasters due to climate change and becoming climate refugees.
16-year-old organizer Sabirah Mahmud, a student at the Academy of Palumbo, spoke on her experiences with climate change not just in Philadelphia, but in her other home of Bangladesh.
She referenced visiting a village in Bangladesh as a child, back when the country did not suffer from the powerful floods as it does today.
“Eight years later when I returned, that village flooded and I had to be rushed to a car which passed through these waters and took me to safety,” Mahmud said. “Less than four years later, I heard the news my nephew passed away to these floods.”
Mahmud also spoke on her visit to a teen science cafe at the Penn Museum. There students were shown a map on what the city of Philadelphia would look in ten years.
“I saw most of South Philadelphia, the entirety of the naval base and the airport underwater,” she said. “The fact that my second home of Bangladesh is already experiencing these floods and now due to the lack of inaction, they’re coming here. I’ve never felt so hopeless.”
Hanna Askapour, a student at Agnes Irwin, spoke on environmental justice and the importance of delaying and stopping the LNG plant. The gas plant proposal was approved back in December by the Philadelphia Gas Commission. The plant is to be built in South Philadelphia on PGW property.
A moment was taken to contact Derek Green, City Council member and member of the gas commission, to stop the LNG Plant. Students took out their phones and immediately started calling.
Many of the speeches, chants, and signs referenced support of the Green New Deal, a resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
Students voices frustration at adults who they feel had failed them on the climate change front, leaving them with a desolate future to inherit. Frustration was especially aimed at politicians who the students felt did not take their concerns seriously.
Enya Xiang, a student from Lower Merion’s Harriton High School, urged U.S. representatives to take a stand and think of future generations.
“We the youth and the generations that come after us will live the detrimental effects on climate change,” said Xiang.
One adult and politician who understood the students’ frustration was Councilwoman Helen Gym, who also spoke at the rally.
“I’m here to tell you as an adult to hold on to your righteous anger because that is what we need in this moment,” Councilwoman Gym said. “The issues that are bringing you here today are a matter of life and death.”
“You are the ones that walk through these streets,” She continued. “You are the ones that breathe this air and drink our water. You’re the ones who decide that lead paint are toxic conditions in our schools and you also know that the solutions to that have nothing to do with a bunch of climate-change deniers in Washington, D.C.”
Roxy Wood, a student from Lower Merion, united the crowd in song with a rendition of “Riptide” by Vance Joy and Girl Scouts-style song on the many voices in the crowd and how none of us are alone.
The fight against climate change is far from over, but students are determined to be heard.
Photos: Sara Stevanato