‘We have to live with it’: Students demand climate action today to ensure a greener tomorrow

Young people across the planet took to the streets Friday to demand that global leaders act to mitigate climate change today to ensure there’ll be a tomorrow.

Covering Climate Now series

About 2,000 people marched in downtown Phoenix, and similar events were scheduled in Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma, Payson, Prescott, Show Low, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe.

In cities from Los Angeles to Cape Town, South Africa, to Kiev, Ukraine, hundreds of thousands turned out to address the rise of greenhouse-gas emissions and the subsequent warming of the planet.

The strikes, which came three days before world leaders gather in New York City for the U.N 2019 Climate Action Summit, were inspired by the activism of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who began protesting alone outside the Swedish Parliament more than a year ago. Since then, she has traveled to the U.S. on a zero-emissions sailboat and testified in front of Congress, the U.N., the European Union and other world organizations.

Amritha Karthikeyan of Phoenix was in Washington on Friday and missed the climate strike she helped organize back home, but that was OK with her. The high school senior attended a companion rally with thousands of others in front of the U.S. Capitol.

“I wanted to come to the D.C. Climate Strike to show my support for climate issues and show that I’m dedicated to solve the issue even in the littlest way I can,” said Karthikeyan, who was in Washington for a conference anyway.

PHOTOS: PHOENIX CLIMATE STRIKE

Activists convene on the grounds of the Arizona Capitol, where many young people spoke about climate change and other social and economic issues. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

Aditi Narayanan, senior at BASIS Phoenix, is a co-leader of the Youth Climate Strike in Phoenix. A conference earlier in the week brought her to Washington, D.C., where she took part in the strike. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

Xavier College Preparatory sophomores Erin Sandweiss, left, and Kate Seeley, both 15, say school administrators supported students attendance at the climate strike by giving them a half day. Sandweiss and Seeley blame previous generations for climate change and hope that people of all ages take action now. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

“I’m here because it’s important to march and show what we stand for and to shoe what happens to us," says Charlotte Miller, 13. "What happens on our Earth is important.” (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

Participants in the Arizona Youth Climate Strike march from the Maricopa County Courthouse to the Arizona Capitol. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

Jason Arnold, 24, a Glendale Community College environmental science student, rode his bicycle from west Phoenix to the Maricopa County Courthouse – about 11 miles – for the strike. His message to the Legislature is “we want change.” (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

“All of the people here has passion and spirit,” Jacob Angeli says. "Not a lot of people know what the global spirit is.” (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

“I’m here to strike against climate change, ” says Andrew Bletka,13, who's an eighth-grader at Cocopah Middle School in Scottsdale. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

Dressed as a bull, William Robles of Guadalupe holds a sign asking President Donald Trump to recognize that climate change is not a hoax. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

Ben Flowers, 7, brought his “science friend Harold” with him to the strike. “I’m here to prove that climate change is real,” says Flowers, who attends Benchmark Elementary School in east Phoenix. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

Environmental activist and Chicago resident Lynae Samson, 59, was visiting her sister and decided to attend the strike. Samson would like to see more alternative energy, less use of fossil fuels and fewer single-use plastics. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

“I am terrified for my future,” says Anna Mohr-Almeida, 16, who attends Westwood High School in Mesa. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

“I’m here cause I want to live,” says Arie’on Stevenson, 9, a fourth grader at Shumway Leadership Academy in Chandler. (Photo by Annika Tomlin/Cronkite News)

The 17-year-old, who attends BASIS Phoenix, was among a handful of Arizonans who joined thousands on Capitol Hill as part of the Global Climate Strike. On a hot, sunny day, they marched from John Marshall Park to the Capitol, where the list of speakers included Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, and Tokata Iron Eyes, 15, an environmental activist from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is in North and South Dakota.

Grijalva echoed the message of rally organizers when he told the crowd there is a need to “protect all life, not just protect the profits,” before calling on his colleagues in Congress to take urgent action.

“Time is not on our side when it comes to the climate crisis and the need of systematic, strong and powerful and bold solutions,” he said. “As time passes, this climate crisis becomes worse and worse and worse.”

Marchers in Washington waved signs and banners demanding that the government tackle climate change, stop taking money from the fossil fuel industry and pass the comprehensive Green New Deal proposed by progressive Democrats in Congress.

Demonstrators expressed their anger and frustration as they marched with chants that included “Hey, hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!” and “Vote Trump out!”

Scores of students skipped classes to attend the march. Layal Rabat, an adult volunteer for the Phoenix Restoration Project, said that makes sense because young people will be most affected by climate change.

“They are super-smart, super-capable of leading their own movements,” said Rabat, who accompanied Karthikeyan to the D.C. conference and march. “In a few years, if things keep going the way that they are going, nobody is going to be able to go to school at all.”

PHOTOS: WASHINGTON, D.C. CLIMATE STRIKE

Protesters make their point during D.C.'s Youth Climate Strike on Friday. Tokata Iron Eyes, 15, an environmental activist from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, led the opening prayer. (Photo by Kailey Broussard/Cronkite News)

Amritha Karthikeyan, a senior at BASIS Phoenix and co-leader of Arizona Youth Climate Strike, was happy to join the strike in D.C. because she wasn't able to attend the protest she helped plan in Phoenix. (Photo by Kailey Broussard/Cronkite News)

Layal Rabat, a Phoenix volunteer, joined Amritha Karthikeyan for a conference in D.C. and went to Friday's strike with Phoenix climate activist. "If things keep going the way that they are going, nobody is going to be able to go to school at all." (Photo by Kailey Broussard/Cronkite News)

Marchers in Washington wave signs and banners demanding that the government tackle climate change, reject money from the fossil fuel industry and pass a comprehensive Green New Deal. (Photo by Kailey Broussard/Cronkite News)

After marchers arrived at the Capitol, Iron Eyes – a leading figure in the youth environmental movement along with Thundberg – led the crowd in an indigenous prayer before speakers took the stage.

The rally’s message was loud and clear: Enough is enough, the climate needs immediate action.

“We are the generation that has to deal with the problems that these fossil fuel industries have created,” Karthikeyan said, “so we are the ones that have to fight for it the most, because we have to live with it.”

Friday’s youth climate march in Phoenix, which is meant to send a message to state officials, began at 2 p.m. at Maricopa County Courthouse and proceeded west to the state Capitol. On its Facebook page, Arizona Youth Climate Strike, one of the organizers, said activists are “calling for the protection and restoration of 50% of the world’s lands and oceans, including a halt to all deforestation, by 2030.”

The organization’s website lists further demands, such as Phoenix declaring a climate emergency and Arizona transitioning to “a 100% clean energy grid with nuclear … by 2035 and must transition off of nuclear by 2050.”

Aniket Pandey, youth climate ambassador, attended the strike with the hopes of not only bringing more awareness to the issue but to also educate those watching the strike.

“I feel you can’t make a solution without addressing the problem and identifying the actual problem,” Pandey said. “You can have a strike, you can have people show up, but if you have people talking about way complex stuff like, ‘You should do this and this, and buy this and plant trees,’ but (if) they don’t know why we’re doing this or they don’t know how we’re doing this, there is no point.

PHOTOS: LOS ANGELES CLIMATE STRIKE

Thousands gather in downtown Los Angeles' Pershing Square to protest the lack of action on legislation to address and deal with climate change. (Photo by Erica Morris/Cronkite News

Thousands gather in downtown Los Angeles' Pershing Square to protest the lack of action on legislation to address and deal with climate change. (Photo by Erica Morris/Cronkite News)

Protesters in Los Angeles abandon the route mapped out for them and begin walking through traffic. (Photo by Erica Morris/Cronkite News).

“I feel like the awareness and informing the audience is the most important part of this entire climate strike.”

Although it’s important to act against climate change, Pandey said getting real policy changes will require realistic goals.

“I personally don’t want to see way too ambitious goals because I believe you won’t have support of the people,” Pandey said. “If you go for a goal like, ‘In five years I want full renewable energy and no fossil fuels,’ that’s unrealistic and won’t get any support from any of the people; you will just get support from the extremes and you need support from the wide public in order to get policies done and enacted.”

Video by Cronkite News reporters Jordan Evans and Melanie Porter.
Cronkite News reporter Kailey Broussard contributed to this reporting.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.


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