A little over a year ago, 15-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg took time off from school to sit outside the Parliament of Sweden while holding a sign that translated to "school strike for the climate." Within weeks, students from other European countries, including Germany and Holland, replicated Thunberg's effort by coordinating Friday walkouts. By November 2018, students from 24 countries were taking part in climate strikes. Four months later, more than a million students, representing more than 120 countries, had joined the movement.
Sea levels are rising — and so are the students of South Florida. Local activists are coordinating a week of climate action, including an international climate strike, ahead of the United Nations climate conference September 23 in New York City.
Friday, a school strike for the climate will take place on six continents, including multiple events in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Two protests — one from 10 a.m. to noon and the second from 4 to 6 p.m. — are planned outside Miami Beach City Hall. A strike is also planned in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward County Public Schools building.
"I'm striking for a livable future," says Nicole Buckley, a climate activist and 17-year-old student at Cypress Bay High School in Broward. She offers a laundry list of reasons why she plans to strike for the climate, including fighting climate gentrification, sea-level rise, and fires and deforestation in the Amazon, as well as to "hold the Big Oil executives" accountable.
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"We have the data, and we have the science," says Andrew Weaver, press director for the Miami Climate Strike. "We've known this [climate change] would happen for decades, and yet nothing has happened. This is especially important for Miami because we're one of the cities that will see the most change."
Students from Miami-Dade and Broward are organizing Friday's strike with the help of adults in organizations such as 350 South Florida and the Cleo Institute. Friday's speakers, however, will be youth organizers from high schools in the region. "The whole point of this movement is that it is youth-led," Weaver says.
Activists are calling on the government to turn away from a dependence on fossil fuels and switch to a renewable economy, such as in the Green New Deal. Advocating for climate justice is another core component of the strike so that marginalized and low-income communities do not continue to be affected disproportionately by the world's changing climate.
"I really hope that more youth feel empowered with this enormous movement and try to create change in their own communities," Buckley says.