Afraid and anxious, young protesters demand climate action

NEW YORK — Frustrated, fearful but also a tad hopeful, young activists staged a coordinated “global climate strike” on Friday to highlight the effects of global warming and demand more aid for poor countries hit by wild weather.

In New York, more than a thousand protesters, many truant, marched through the streets as leaders of developing countries hit by disaster took their cases to the United Nations to tell their leaders they were fed up would not act on climate issues.

“The oceans are rising and so are we,” they sang. Demonstrators also took to the streets in Jakarta, Tokyo, Rome, Berlin and Montreal carrying banners and placards with slogans such as “It’s not too late”.

“It’s one thing to worry about the future and another to go out and do something about it,” 16-year-old Lucia Dec-Prat said at the protests in New York. “I honestly feel like adults aren’t listening.”

Dinah Landsman, 17, said she wonders every day what kind of future she will have when she grows up because of climate change. Her generation must act, she said.

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“Nobody else is going to do it,” said Landsman, also in New York. “The stakes are high for us”

The protests follow warnings from scientists that countries are not doing enough to meet the top goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) this century compared to pre-industrial times limit.

Michael Taft, a 27-year-old graduate student in New York, said, “A lot of kids here are afraid of what the next 20 years are going to be like for them.”

But Taft said he still had hope. He looks around at those listening to the speakers and says they are not like previous generations. You don’t want to become a finance major and make a lot of money.

“They’re all here because they’re motivated to make a difference,” Taft said. “And likely one of the people here, or at some other climate rally in another country, will be the person who has a massive role to play in changing and fixing this problem.”

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The demonstrations were organized by the Fridays for Future movement, modeled after activist Greta Thunberg, who began protesting alone in front of the Swedish parliament in 2018.

“We are on strike worldwide because the responsible governments are still doing too little for climate justice,” says Darya Sotoodeh, spokeswoman for the parliamentary group in Germany.

“People around the world are suffering from this crisis and it will only get worse if we don’t act in time,” she said.

Police said around 20,000 people attended the rally in Berlin, which called on the federal government to set up a €100 billion fund to tackle climate change.

In Rome, around 5,000 young people took part in a march that ended near the Colosseum.

A poster read: “The climate is changing. Why aren’t we?” Among their priorities, the students highlighted the need to rethink Italy’s transport policy. The country’s car-to-resident ratio is one of the highest in Europe.

In the Italian election campaign, which ends on Friday evening before the parliamentary elections on September 25, climate protection policy did not play a major role in the rallies of the candidates.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told world leaders this week that the fossil fuel industry, which is responsible for much of the gases warming the planet, is “luxuriating in hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while… household budgets are shrinking and our planet is burning.”

Guterres called on rich countries to tax energy company profits and divert funds to both “countries suffering losses and damage from the climate crisis” and those struggling with rising costs of living.

Ahead of this year’s UN climate summit, calls for more financial help to help poor countries deal with global warming, including the destruction already wreaked by deadly weather events like the floods in Pakistan, have mounted.


Jordans reported from Berlin. Pietro de Cristofaro in Berlin and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.


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