Article and photos by Anacaona Rodriguez Martinez
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan on Friday, Sept. 20, demanding government action on the climate crisis and joining a global youth movement that drew an estimated 4 million at similar protests around the world.
The demonstration at Foley Square, followed by a march to Battery Park, was led by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who landed in New York this past August on a zero-emissions sailboat in an effort to engage Americans in her mission to pressure governments to do more to address climate change. Thunberg began her protest movement in her native Sweden by skipping school on Fridays to demand Parliament take action towards climate change. Now, she has brought her protest across the Atlantic and throughout the world with her organization “Fridays for Future.” A day before the New York protest, Thunberg addressed Congress and said, “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”
New York’s Climate Strike was held ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, scheduled for Sept. 23 at the organization’s New York headquarters. The rise of youth-led protests is a global attempt aimed at raising international awareness of climate change. Youngsters feel this is a fight to protect their future and hope to prevent climate disaster. This movement is being propelled by what many are calling “The Greta Effect.”
In solidarity with the movement, city Department of Education excused all public school absences the day of the demonstration to encourage students to join the protest.
“I knew I had to be a part of the action when the march became so highly publicized and Greta was confirmed to speak,” said one protester, Andres Aguirre, 19. “When you have millions of activists uniting for one cause, surely the world will lend its ear to know what the people want.”
According to Global Climate Strike’s website, more than 2,500 protests in more than 150 countries had been planned on Friday. Protesters demanded nations to commit to stronger and more-binding laws that will hold businesses and corporations accountable for their contributions to pollution.
Previous climate deals and agreements created by a majority of United Nations member states include the Paris Agreement, which currently has 185 signatories, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was unanimously ratified in 2015. President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a report stating that countries have 12 years left to take action before the effects of climate change are irreversible.
“This protest demonstrates something really important. The fact of the matter is that people are fed up with the environment not being taken care of,” said protester Daniel Flores Acosta, 18. “This protest should serve as a reminder to those in the United Nations and elsewhere that action should be done.”
The millions who showed solidarity for Thunberg’s cause have caught the attention of many, including former President Obama, who tweeted on Friday: “The millions of young people worldwide who’ve organized and joined today’s #ClimateStrike demand action to protect our planet, and they deserve it.”
Many are hoping that “The Greta Effect” will continue to be prevalent in international politics, especially at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. “Proper action must be done for our generation and for those to come,” said Acosta.