Every Friday starting last December, 14-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor sat on a bench on 47th Street in Manhattan outside the United Nations. She was protesting adults and governments refusing to act on climate change. Sometimes she was joined by a few other young people. Recently she tweeted, “WEEK 37 … I’m alone like when I started.”
But on August 30, Alexandria was alone no longer. She was joined by hundreds of kids, teens, 20-somethings — and Greta Thunberg.
Greta is the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and founder of the Fridays for Future movement. She was the inspiration for Alexandria to walk out of school every week, to call attention to what the girls call our planet’s climate emergency. Greta will speak at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. But also on her agenda: meeting with Alexandria for her weekly Friday strike. And on September 20, joining Alexandria in New York City, and millions of concerned kids around the world, for the Global Climate Strike.
It took Greta two weeks to get to New York across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s because she came by sailboat. It was the least-polluting way she could find to travel.
Alexandria and other Fridays for Future strikers turned out to greet Greta when she arrived August 28. The day was muggy and hot. As the black sails of Greta’s boat appeared on the Hudson River, it started to rain. But the kids hardly noticed.
“It’s amazing to have Greta come to the United States,” said Alexandria as her fellow activists cheered behind her. “With Greta here, it will give a boost to all the strikers because her message is so important.”
Early in Alexandria’s protests, Greta gave her advice about “how to keep at it” and how to stay warm through the cold [months]. Like “using a sleeping bag,” says Alexandria.
For her 38th Friday strike, the day was hot and sunny, and a sleeping bag wasn’t necessary.
Hundreds of kids met Alexandria and Greta on 43rd Street at 11 a.m., carrying signs, ready to raise their voices. Several said that the Swedish teen is a motivator and that they plan on taking part in future climate strikes. (The teens would not provide their names to a KidsPost reporter, so they cannot be quoted.)
At 11:15 a.m., the protesters began to march and chant up First Avenue to 47th Street. They were so numerous there wasn’t room on Alexandria’s usual bench. They settled across the street in a shady plaza. They called for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and for adults to listen and act. They vowed to keep up their protests until real changes are made to protect the planet.
Around noon, Greta and Alexandria were summoned by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, president of the United Nations General Assembly. She wanted to hear their demands.
For the moment, their voices were being heard.