Mnookin: Youth Climate Strike

Mar 19, 2019

Last Friday morning, my family stood in front of Brattleboro Union High School for one of the local youth-led climate strikes. This strike drew a crowd of all ages, including grandparents and babies in arms, but teens were at the helm, chanting into the megaphone “No more coal! No more oil! Keep the carbon in the soil!”

My six-year-old looks up to the older kids, several of them friends and babysitters, learning - and then leading - chants herself as colorful, homemade signs highlight the urgency of the climate crisis, declaring “If Not Now, Then When,” “Climate Emergency,” and “Why be in school if there won’t be a future?”

Globally, it’s estimated that more than 1 million students skipped school to participate in climate strikes in 125  countries and more than 2000 distinct locations on every continent, including towns throughout Vermont.

This call to action for global youth was mobilized by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize who’s repeatedly spoken in front of the U.N., calling on world leaders to “panic” and then “to act” because “our house is on fire.”

When asked why they were striking in Brattleboro, Jubilee, age 6, said, “We need to have the ocean not rise so much.” Oliver, age 15, wants “a liveable future.” And Amelia, age 17, is frustrated “that our government is still debating these facts when change is needed, and the end is near if we don’t do something.” Lucy, age 18, helped organize the rally after attending a workshop hosted by 350Vermont, a statewide climate justice organization.

As a mother of two young children, I find it deeply depressing that this kind of activism is needed. But I’m also immensely grateful for youth leaders that are rising up - youth like Greta, like those in the Sunrise Movement calling for the federal Green New deal, like those who rallied at the Vermont State House, and like those here in Brattleboro, including my own child.

Our kids deserve a brighter future. And these youth are showing us the way. So I’m determined to stand behind them and support their call for bold, brave action.