Young people across Michigan take to the streets to make voices heard on climate change
“Climate strikes” are being held around the world today, including here in Michigan. The youth-led movement aims to pressure corporations and governments to do more to reduce the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.
It was inspired, in part, by the work of 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
“What I’m telling you to do now is to act because no one is too small to make a difference,” Thunberg recently told an audience at George Washington University.
Young people throughout Michigan have heeded Thunberg's call, and strikes were held throughout Michigan, from Ann Arbor to Marquette.
Joey Val helped organize the Washtenaw County Climate Strike. He says a lot of the organizers for the event are middle and high school students.
"Seeing high schoolers with that kind of enthusiasm, that active drive is really refreshing and also can help catalyze the rest of us to get moving," he says. Val planned workshops after the strike in Ann Arbor. He says, "We didn't want the same formula of rally, march, sit in. We wanted to kind of switch it up and make sure people were getting the educational component that's kind of necessary."
Naina Agrawal-Hardin is a student at Washtenaw International High School, and also helped organize the Washtenaw County Climate Strike. Hannah Huggett is a student at Black River High School in Holland, who is organizing the Holland Youth Climate Strike taking place Friday evening.
Agrawal-Hardin says she really became aware of how urgent climate change was when she saw the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report. It said the world has around 12 years to reduce carbon emissions before damage to the planet becomes irreversible.
“In 12 years I’ll be 27, 28 years old, and I’m not going to have time to grow and change the system from within," Agrawal-Hardin said. "I need to do something right now if I want the opportunity to be an adult like my parents.”
While the Ann Arbor area has a reputation as being more to the left politically, Holland tends to vote more conservative. But Huggett said that she's still optimistic that people can see climate change as a nonpartisan issue.
“Holland is still sort of a more politically conservative community, for some it’s not that they feel strongly on the opposing side, but it’s more that they’re apathetic about the issue because they’re not educated about it,” Huggett said.
She's hoping the climate strike events, and her conversations with people in her community, can start to change that.
Both activists want to disrupt business as usual. The young women hope it sends a message to those in positions of power that they must make tangible change.
“Business as usual is not sustainable. I hope this climate strike will send a message to corporations and to politicians that we are not going to accept inaction anymore. We are demanding action on climate justice,” Agrawal-Hardin said. “We need them to be brave for us, and that’s what we’re showing them.”
This post was written by production assistant Catherine Nouhan.