By: Katherine L. ’20
On September 20, around 75 Winsor students skipped their long block classes to attend the US Youth Climate Strike at Boston City Plaza. Trading meticulous notes for provocative posters, Winsor students marched alongside more than 7,000 student activists in Boston, while more than four million people protested in 150 different countries.
In preparation for the Climate Strike, Calla W. ’22 and Imogen C. ’22 published a collaborative Op-ed in the Banner to inspire members of the Winsor community to join them. “We thought that an Op-ed would be a good way to reach everyone in the Winsor community,” Calla told the Banner. “Writing the Op-ed gave us the ability to lay out our argument for why students should strike and explain some of the exact policies which we are advocating for by striking.” Reinforcing the importance of expressing one’s beliefs, Latin teacher Mrs. Hatcher encouraged seniors to miss long block Latin and attend the Climate Strike instead. “That day, going there, being a part of the movement, having your voice heard, showing people that this is what you believe in,” Mrs. Hatcher explained to the Banner, “that’s much more important than a day of Latin class.”
Thanks to the Op-ed and support from the administration, Winsor had an impressive turnout at the climate strike. At the event, keynote speakers including Mayor Martin Walsh and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu made cases for policy-oriented solutions to climate change. Among the speakers was community activist and former Winsor student Reverend Mariama White Hammond ’96. Hammond remarked, “When millions of people and billions of people begin to organize and stand up, things that seemed impossible can become reality. So we are here because we are facing a cause that some people say is impossible. And we are here because we say heck no, we are not going down without a fight.” The US Youth Climate Strike demanded that the government do five things: respect land treaties with indigenous tribes, invest in highly polluted communities, protect global biodiversity, implement sustainable agriculture, and pass the Green New Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So how has the government responded? On September 23, the UN Climate Action Summit urged global leaders to make concrete plans for the future regarding environmental policy. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager at the forefront of climate activism, delivered an emotional speech at the meeting. She addressed politicians with the words: “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” Greta’s speech was especially moving given that young people have played such an important role in climate activism.
Many nations actually did promise to make changes, including sixty-five that announced plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Germany set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, China committed to cutting emissions twelve billion tons annually, and France vowed to only make trade agreements with countries following the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The US, however, made no commitments during the meeting. Shortly afterwards, President Trump took to Twitter to comment sarcastically on Thunberg’s speech: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” And Trump wasn’t the only American personality to attack Thunberg online. Fox News anchor Michael Knowles called her a “mentally ill Swedish child,” referring to her autism, and commentator Dinesh D’Souza blatently compared her to a Nazi.
Despite this negativity, the US Youth Climate Strike and UN summit represent a major step forward in environmental awareness. Furthermore, Winsor participation in Boston’s strike demonstrated that we are a community eager to make our voices heard. Caitlin Bracken ’20 commented, “A lot of Winsor students have significant knowledge and feel passionately about these topics, but are afraid of going out and actually taking action. I hope that the climate strike empowers more of us to speak up for the things we believe in.” Luckily, the strike in September was only one of many more happening in Boston this year. So for anyone interested in climate activism, the upcoming strikes are definitely something to look out for!