Youth Strike Against Climate Change

Sep 17, 2019

Mary Ellis Stevens on week 2 of striking outside the Charlotte Mecklenberg Government Building. As part of the Fridays For Future movement, youth skip school on Friday to fight for climate change.
Credit Mary Ellis Stevens

Ninth-grader Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish legislature in 2018 and declared her commitment to strike each Friday to demand that her government undertake a radical response to climate change. At that moment she became the face and voice of a generation of youth anxious and motivated to do something about climate change.

 

Thunberg launched Fridays For Future, and youth around the world followed. Mary Ellis Stevens is a freshman at Myers Park High School in Charlotte and the director of Earth Uprising Charlotte and Vice President of North Carolina Climate Strike. Inspired by Thunberg, Stevens is on her 24th week striking. For most of those Fridays, instead of attending school, she sat in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center talking to lawmakers entering and exiting the building. She joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the progress these efforts have made in Charlotte. Global Climate Strike week begins this Friday, Sept. 20 and includes numerous strikes, rallies and demonstrations around the world. Hallie Turner, a senior at Enloe High School in Raleigh, has never taken place in the student climate strike, but she will this Friday. Her efforts to make a change for the future includes joining a national lawsuit against the government spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit group supporting youth’s right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere. Turner joins the conversation to talk about her push to have a voice and decision to strike. And although the strike is driven by youth, adult activists are also involved. Bobby Jones is the organizer and president of the Down East Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition. For the past five years, he has been educating the community of Western Goldsboro and fighting Duke Energy over coal ash pollution in his community. He joins the show to share his story and his role as a speaker during the one of the statewide rallies. There are numerous scheduled events around the state compiled in this map.

 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

 

Turner on what inspired her to get involved in 4th grade:

I was first inspired by Al Gore’s book, a kid’s version of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and I read that, and I was shocked by the magnitude of the crisis, but also about how little I felt people were talking about it. And how it was communities that were often poor communities and communities of color that were contributing the least to the climate crisis but being affected the most by it. 

Stevens on climate change anxiety among youth: 

A large majority of the people that I talk to that are my age are really worried about this, and they do recognize the magnitude of this issue, and a lot of my friends have expressed interest in taking action whether through strikes or other forms of direct action. We’re all pretty anxious for our futures, because it is going to be devastating.

Turner on her suit against the state of North Carolina: 

I came across the work that Our Children’s Trust is doing. They’re the group that’s supporting the 21 plaintiffs nationally that are suing the federal government to protect natural resources for future generations. And I’m involved in a petition in North Carolina asking the state to do the same thing.  

Stevens on how she is helping with legislation in Charlotte:

One thing that I’ve been working on is the implementation of SEAP — which is the Strategic Energy Action Plan — which was a resolution passed unanimously by the [Charlotte] City Council saying that the city government buildings and the city vehicles will be zero carbon emissions by 2030 and that Charlotte will aim to be a low carbon city by 2050.