Over the last nine months, calls to address climate change have become a powerful new social movement.
Driving the news: Climate change has traditionally not spawned intense, organized and continued protest. That’s been gradually changing, and since November with the rise of the Green New Deal, youth activism and civil resistance protests, the movement has hardened into a force to reckon with.
Where it stands: Unlike earlier climate-related protests, such as the rallies against the Keystone XL pipeline, activists organizing today are more global, persistent and sweeping in nature. The emergence of young people, worried about an increasingly unstable world they’re growing up in, adds a clear constituency that was previously lacking.
Environmental and grassroots groups are planning a series of what they’re describing as the largest-ever climate protests this fall.
- On Sept. 20 and 27, what organizers say could be millions of people, led by students, are signing up to walk out of their schools and jobs to demand the world stop using fossil fuels.
- These school walkouts have been going on around the world since November with inspiration from Swedish teenager activist Greta Thunberg. The September rallies are timed to a major UN climate summit in New York City.
- Extinction Rebellion, a group responsible for causing massive disruptions across London in April and protesting on Capitol Hill last week, is organizing similar protests across several cities, including New York, for Oct. 7 and 14.
Why it matters: Influential leaders outside this social movement, from oil executives to country officials, are noticing. Elliot Diringer, a veteran of global climate talks, said the protests are a hot topic when he meets with negotiators from various countries.
What they’re saying: Groups involved, including the youth-led Sunrise Movement, Youth Climate Strike and Extinction Rebellion, all have similar demands that are light on policy but sweeping and urgent in nature. At the center is getting off oil, natural gas and coal while prioritizing broader social justice concerns.
“It’s not our job as high schoolers to come up with solutions to climate change,” said 16-year-old Sophie Anderson, national coordinator for the Extinction Rebellion Youth U.S. “We’re not the ones with the answers. We just want people to take action.”
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