Last Friday afternoon, students from several Richmond schools marched down Broad St to Capitol Square, as part of the Youth Strike 4 Climate worldwide protest.
An estimated 1.4 million students in 123 countries played hooky this past Friday, demanding public action for global warming, which included about 50 kids from local Richmond schools.
At 12:30 p.m., students both from Richmond middle and high schools marched from Abner Clay Park down Broad Street to the Bell Tower in Capitol Square, joining a worldwide coordinated school walkout called Youth Strike 4 Climate.
“I want to address the issue that climate change is a real thing,” said Lola Brozna, 14, an eighth grade student at Albert Hill Middle School. “We need to take charge, because it’s our future. We’re getting all this education, but we might not even be able to use it.”
Students chanted phrases such as, “People not power,” and, “Don’t use oil, keep it in the soil.” Other adult members of the community marched to show their support as well, including local teachers and environmental advocates.
Many grade school students in the movement believe older generations have failed to properly address climate change, nor have they taken any appropriate measures to advocate for clean energy and global environmental policy plans. Students like Brozna fear the projected lifespan of humans moving forward, and worry it may cause a massive loss of life.
“The planet is dying, and there is this overwhelming scientific consensus that if we don’t really swiftly transition to renewable energy, we’re going to die,” said Barry O’Keefe, a VCU Arts teacher who helped organize the Richmond strike. “It’s not only figuratively but literally true that children are our future. Kids are going to inherit the world in no time. I’m personally really inspired by the youth taking political power into their own hands, because if they successfully do it, I think we’re going to be okay.”
The movement was first inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s weekly protests in her hometown of Stockholm. She has since gone on to deliver a TED Talk, an address to the United Nations, and spoke at the World Economic Forum at Davos.
“You say you love your children above all else,” Thunberg said in her address to the United Nations last December. “And yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
The United States named their own version of this movement the Youth Climate Strike; the movement is run entirely by middle and high school students ranging from ages 12 to 17. They cite demands including a “Green New Deal,” halting fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and better education in schools on global climate change.
“By 2050, the world will look super different,” said 16-year-old Amaya Matthews, a student at Douglas Freeman High School, referring to projected ocean levels rising. “I just want the world to look better, not worse.”
The next global walkout is scheduled for May 3.
Photos by John Donegan