The Power of Activism: The Youth Climate Strike


The Youth Climate Strike, like this one in San Francisco, was a coordinated protest in cities across the world, including Philadelphia.

Julianna Schweitzer, Staff Writer

Having an excuse to skip school would get any teenager’s attention, but young environmental activists are not skipping school just to miss a test: They are fighting for their lives.

Every Friday since August 2018, youth from around the world have left school to protest inaction to address climate change. Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who has used her voice to promote change, was the first to strike, sitting alone on the steps of the Swedish Parliament with a single sign that said “SKOLSTREJK FÖR KLIMATET” (STRIKE FOR CLIMATE) in bold, black marker.

There have been several significant national and international strikes this past spring, but the September 20th strike was one for the books. All around the world, the planet’s next generation took to demand change.

I went to the Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike with school friends as well as fellow activist friends that I have met at prior climate strikes. Per usual, it was held at City Hall. An estimate of over 1,000 people came to rally in support of the fight to end the climate crisis. 

Philadelphian teenagers, who shared the different effects of climate change on their lives, gave thought-provoking speeches. Borderline squished in the jam-packed crowd, I raised a handwritten sign like many others:

“I should be sitting at home eating my veggie burger, but here I am fighting for our lives, and my veggie burger is getting cold.” 

That day, the youth glowed with resolute seriousness and solemn integrity that many adults seemed surprised to see. The most powerful part was taking to the streets, marching through center city as passersby cheered along my passionate chants.

It was different this time, compared to Philadelphia’s past climate strikes. The past strikes were organized as standing-still rallies, but on this day, the march through Center City incorporated all of the jumpy, spirited crowd, which was eager to move around and make some noise. 

Climate change’s effects become more severe everyday. They particularly impact the less affluent areas as well as places already vulnerable to environmental damage. This means poor communities and people of color are threatened greatly. There are only an estimated 11 years left before the damaging effects of climate change cannot be reversed. 

The goal of the strike is, in serious terms, to get lawmakers to get off their butts and do something. If the adults will not own up to their responsibility to the planet, then the children will take over. 

The Trump administration has failed to recognize climate change as a national emergency. President Trump has pulled us from the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement as early as 2017, despite the fact that Article 28 of the Paris Agreement states the earliest withdrawal date for the United States is November 4, 2020.

Recently, President Trump has also made revisions to the Endangered Species Act, substantially weakening the enforcement of environmental protections. Trump’s decision allows oil and gas companies to drill on protected land.

Without government support, the necessary major changes cannot happen. It is not surprising that those politicians have not gotten around to this issue, but something this detrimental to the future of our world (which includes the country that Trump claims to love) should be taking over headlines.

So, with the government’s failure to comply with environmental demands, the Philadelphia strike gathered about 4,000 participants. These are people who want change. There are people as young as six and as old as sixty, and they all had the same goal in mind: to save the planet. This is just the beginning of a flourishing movement that will fight tooth and nail for their lives as well as yours if you want them to or not.

“I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” – Greta Thunberg, Founder of Fridays for Future.