A week of global climate strikes kicks off Friday with thousands of events planned across the world.
Scientists will leave their labs. Workers won’t go to their jobs. Students will walk out of their classes.
The strikes come ahead of a Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and a United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday. Another strike is planned for Sept. 27.
While adults will participate in Friday’s events – workers at Amazon, Google, Twitter and Microsoft plan to join – the strikes are youth-led.
Photos: World’s Youth March for Climate
Tens of thousands of high school students are expected to skip classes to urge politicians and businesses to take action on climate change, which they see as a growing threat impeding their futures.
New York City will allow 1.1 million students to skip class with their parents’ permission to participate. Strikes are also planned in Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, started the school strike movement by skipping class on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish Parliament.
Thunberg recently traveled to the U.S. on an emissions-free boat and is set to participate in the U.N. climate summit in New York City next week. She spoke to Congress this week, asking lawmakers to listen to scientists.
“I don’t see a reason to not listen to the science,” Thunberg told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It’s not just a thing we should be taking for granted. We listen to the current best-available, united science. It’s just something we should do. This is not political opinion or views, this is science.”
Thunberg has been an influential leader in the youth climate change movement.
“I think most Americans who don’t form their identity around denying climate change are affected by her and by other young people who are showing how concerned, how scared they are for their future,” says Edward Maibach, the director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication.
But the strikes aren’t just about one person, according to Katie Eder, the 19-year-old executive director of Future Coalition, a youth-led nonprofit helping groups coordinate for Friday’s event.
The protests will “launch a new era of the climate movement,” Eder told reporters on a call this week. “It’s really these young people that are making these things happen and doing the work on the ground.”
Gabriella Marchesani, the 17-year-old leader for the strike in Miami, said she has not been given permission by the school district to miss class like New York City students.
“This is not just some small strike that students want to miss school for,” Marchesani said. “This is a historic moment that we’re going to look back on and we’re going to think, ‘That’s the day that the youth came together around the world'” to demand action on the climate crisis, she said.
A survey from The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation published this week found that 57% of teenagers said they are afraid of climate change. Just slightly over half feel angry, according to the survey. Over half of the adults surveyed also reported feeling afraid, and an even 50% reported feeling angry.
“All of this energy we’re currently seeing in our younger Americans, I have no doubt it’s driving increased engagement with our older Americans,” Maibach, of George Mason University, says.
Already, the strikes could be working on some businesses.
Jeff Bezos on Thursday announced that Amazon will aim to be carbon-neutral by 2040, which is 10 years sooner than the Paris agreement’s timeline. Some of Amazon’s newly announced promises come from demands made by the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. Bezos stopped short of boycotting oil and gas companies, which the group had wanted.