Youth lead climate strike at DePauw and globally

(Photo by Abby Cook)

Greta Thunberg told the UN at the Climate Summit last Monday, “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” 

Thunberg’s speech  reflected the sentiments of many DePauw students who attended the second Climate Strike on Friday.

Sophomore Sarah Ballard said, “Young people currently feel such an immense burden to correct all the climate injustice occurring,” citing Greta Thunberg as “really a powerful example of that [burden].” 

Colleen McCracken, health professions advisor at the Hubbard Center, agreed that “we’re looking at kids…to be the solution to things, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a 16-year-old.”

Local elementary students Maggie and Clara were on the front line of protestors for the strike. Clara carried a large poster with a drawing of the Earth on fire and “Just Three Words… IT’S MY FUTURE” plastered across it. 

Both girls lead a chant of their own creation: “What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now!”

Clara said that although she liked leading the strike, “it sort of annoys me how… [adults] admire you for wanting to do something about it, but they don’t do anything.”

First-year Annie Nelson said that the burden of responsibility should go to the government “because how are we supposed to change anything? I can’t go up to Exxon Mobil like, ‘Yo, stop mining fossil fuels’...that’s just not up to the people.”

McCracken added that the government should specifically “pressure companies, corporations who have contributed massively to gas emissions…we need them to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

This idea was reflected in a recent speech given by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who told international leaders, “Don’t come to the summit with beautiful speeches. Come with concrete plans, clear steps” for combating climate change.

A few politicians like Alexandira Ocasio-Cortez have created and backed policy initiatives such as the Green New Deal, while many of the Democratic presidential candidates have come up with their own competing plans against climate change.

Implementing these plans soon is necessary according to the letters of petition which DePauw students had the opportunity to sign at the first strike. The letters, which were sent to Congressman Todd Young, Mike Braun and James Baird, state that “continuing on our present path will result in more devastating wildfires, flooding coastlines, extreme storms, loss of agricultural productivity, catastrophic human migrations and cost taxpayers billions of dollars that could have been saved by taking action now.”

Although the two Global Climate Strikes have ended, the larger movement, #FridaysForFuture, goes on, and Greta Thunberg continues to encourage students leave class every Friday until measures are taken against climate change. 

The push for climate action continues at DePauw as well. As Nelson said, “Why are we here in school learning about stuff we need to do for a future when…we won’t even have a future?”