Students protest climate injustice


Charles Gorrivan

Friends students joined some 200,000 New Yorkers to demand climate reform in downtown Manhattan.

Charles Gorrivan, Editor-in-Chief

 Four million people across 150 countries  marched to demand that government officials take more aggressive initiative on climate change on September 20th. Of these protesters, 70 students from Friends Seminary demonstrated support with handmade signs, and by missing their last two classes. The Upper School allowed seventh through twelfth graders to attend the protests while counting it as an excused absence. The excusal from classes was in line with New York’s Department of Education. 

Fed up with inaction on climate change, Amanda Carmen 21’ felt inspired to join the protests. “It’s a really important issue young people care about,” she said. “We aren’t putting up with inaction anymore.” 

Friends students joined some 150,000 to 250,000 like-minded New Yorkers, who, frustrated with rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and heat levels, met at Foley Square to march.

 The protest had the spirit of a carnival – marchers danced and banged drums, chanting messages like “hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go.” People were clad in everything from penguin costumes to work clothes, often with face or body paint. Many also hoisted up creative signs with messages like “If the world was cool we would be in school,” or “what I stand on is what I stand for, ” among other slogans and satirical images. Age varied among protesters, with some holding their parent’s hands and others cane. Meanwhile, food trucks took advantage of the day to sell merchandise, snacks, or water to dehydrated demonstrators. 

After the crowd shouted and danced their way to Battery Park, they crammed together to hear climate activists, including Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, in Battery Park. Thunberg has quickly risen to become the face of the movement, attracting attention after her decision to boycott school every Friday. Instead of going to classes, she spent the day sitting outside the Swedish Parliament. Her rationale being, “Why study for a future that is being taken away from us?” Thunberg’s commitment has inspired a wave of young people to dedicate to the fight on climate change. Unwilling to travel by plane, Thunberg arrived in New York after two weeks on a zero-emission, 60 foot, carbon-neutral racing yacht. 

In her speech, Thunberg addressed the leaders controlling climate policy. “Change is coming whether they like it or not,” she said. “Do you think they hear us?” To join Thunberg on stage were performers Jaden Smith and his sister, Willow Smith. The duo performed a high energy set, with Jaden saying “We gotta leave the old world behind for our children.”

The day was important to students in the Friends community. June Harkrider 21’ said that hearing Greta’s commitment led her to believe that that “now is the most important time for us, particularly young people, to recognize that climate change is the most important issue impacting everyone right now.”

Megan Koenigsberg 20’ said that she hoped greater climate reform could come out of the demonstrations. 

“It is reassuring that so many care enough about climate change to get into the streets,” Koenigsberg said. “With so little actually happening on a federal level, it is nice to feel like we did something. Maybe we can channel our momentum into some real change”