It started 29 weeks ago when 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays to protest climate change by standing outside of her nation's parliament building. Today, kids from almost 100 countries, including the United States, are following Thunberg's lead and will play hooky from classes for something they think is ultimately more important: preventing the warming of their planet.
"'Young people realize the urgency,' Isra Hirsi, a 16-year-old from Minneapolis who is co-organizing the U.S. climate strikes with New Yorker Alexandria Villasenor, 13, and Coloradan Haven Coleman, 12, told The Post's Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis in a must-read look at the young activists. “'We know whatever happens with climate change will affect us the most,'" she said.
Hirsi is right — a recent U.N. climate report concluded the world must halve carbon emissions by 2030 or risk catastrophic impacts. That's about the time most kids striking tomorrow will be graduating from college and seeking their first jobs.
So these young activists are beginning to flex their political muscle, per Sarah and Brady:
The three U.S. organizers have joined with dozens of peers to plan protests in at least 35 states and the nation’s capital. They’ve won the backing of major environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Sierra Club, 350.org and the Sunrise Movement. But the kids have also received pushback from political leaders; when British students walked out last month, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May criticized the “waste of lesson time.”
“I want people to realize that even if we are so young,” Hirsi said, “we’re not going to back down.”
Sarah and Brady interviewed these student activists and told the story of why they have chosen to act now. Here are some of their stories:
- Feliquan Charlemagne (age 17; junior, West Port High School in Ocala, Fla.): “I’m actually from the Caribbean, from the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands . . . I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of my family now lives in Florida because hurricane after hurricane just keeps making it worse . . . And that’s not even a sustainable solution, because Florida’s going to be one of the areas that’s hit the most . . . The rest of my life is literally on the line . . . It’s not a question of whether we know what the effects will be. We know the effects, and they could be even worse than what we think they are.”
- Isabella Fallahi (age 15; sophomore, Carmel High School, Indianapolis): “This is not a Republican issue; this is not a Democrat issue. This is a human rights issue . . . I don’t want to live in a world where the future is unclear. I have big plans for myself . . . People generally perceive it as us kids, we’re just whining . . . Unfortunately, adults haven’t done enough for us to make this future clear for me and for my peers. So we’re taking it into our own hands.”
- Saraphina Forman (age 16; Sophomore, Northampton High School, Northampton, Mass.): “I grew up in the country a little bit outside of Northampton, tapping trees for maple syrup, skating on a nearby pond, and I know that the effects of climate change are already happening . . . When I came across Greta Thunberg, I think she really sparked a movement around the world. I was very much inspired by her and wanted to do the same . . . I thought, why shouldn’t I do this? It’s the duty of everyone.”
- Aditi Narayanan (age 16; junior, Basis Phoenix charter school, Phoenix): “I’m going to be real with you — I feel like activism without an actual goal isn’t really much of a point . . . We have concrete plans of what we want to accomplish . . . Before 2018, I was just like, 'Eh, the world is changing. But I can’t affect anything.' And then I saw all these examples of all these activists rising up around the country, and I was like 'Dang, maybe I can.' "
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Meanwhile, in Washington, a prominent Republican lawmaker calls the Green New Deal “tantamount to genocide”: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the ranking member and former chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, compared the Green New Deal to "genocide." “For many people who live in the West, but also in rural and urban areas, the ideas behind the Green New Deal are tantamount to genocide,” Bishop said during a news conference with other Republican lawmakers. "That may be an overstatement, but not by a whole lot.”
It was the latest remark from the nine-term lawmaker who has been an aggressive critic of the plan. He recently ate a hamburger during a news conference, warning they'd be "outlawed" by the Green New Deal.
"After the news conference was over, Axios reporter Amy Harder pointed out the term 'genocide' refers to the deliberate mass murder of a particular national or ethnic group, and asked Bishop how the Green New Deal fit that definition," as The Post's Antonia Noori Farzan writes. "I’m an ethnic,” Bishop said. "I’m a Westerner.”
— McConnell tees up Green New Deal vote: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to set up a vote on a plan introduced by Democrats to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero over the next ten years and guaranteeing jobs for everyone, until after next week’s Senate recess. He moved to “limit debate on taking up a joint resolution supporting the Green New Deal,” Roll Call reports. “With McConnell filing the motion to break any filibusters on proceeding to the non-binding measure, the test vote will likely take place on or around Tuesday, March 26."
— More plans to revise Obama-era rules: The Trump administration is set to ease restrictions on oil and gas industries put in place to protect the greater sage grouse in the West. U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed insisted the changes will address concerns that current policies are too restrictive but will still protect the bird species, the Associated Press reports.
“The changes address a suite of sweeping land management plans for portions of 11 Western states that were adopted in 2015 under former President Barack Obama to keep the struggling bird from slipping toward extinction,” per the report. “The new plans are expected to remove the most protective habitat designations for about 13,000 square miles… of public land. Those areas, considered essential to the species’ survival, were a centerpiece of the Obama policy.”
— Grand Canyon chief steps down: The first female superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park is resigning after less than three years in the role. The move comes months after a federal probe cleared Christine Lehnertz of accusations that she created a hostile work environment and wasted the park’s resources, the Associated Press reports.
She was set to return to the park after investigators found she did nothing wrong, but her attorney advised against it. “Lehnertz is the park’s first openly gay, female superintendent and the second consecutive Grand Canyon chief to leave under pressure,” per the AP. “She started the job in August 2016, tasked with changing what investigators said was a pervasive culture of sexual harassment in the now-defunct river district.”
— “Bomb cyclone” moves toward upper Midwest after blasting Plains: The powerful winter storm of “historic proportions” brought 100 mph wind gusts and hurricane-like conditions to the Plains on Wednesday and by Thursday it was later racing to the upper Midwest. "A severe-storm threat extends on the massive cyclone’s south and east sides, from northern Mississippi and Alabama into southern Michigan. Tornado watches covered parts of seven states," The Post's Jason Samenow and Matthew Capucci wrote.
Near Paducah, Ky., there was "major damage" reported from a tornado. "By Friday, the storm’s effects on the Lower 48 are expected to turn tamer as it lifts into northeast Canada."
— That’s a lot of Coke bottles: Coca-Cola Co. acknowledged it produced more than 3 million tons of plastic packaging in 2017. The company did not put an overall number on its output of plastic, but the Guardian reports that amounts to about 108 billion bottles per year.
“Coca-Cola is one of 31 companies — including Mars, Nestlé and Danone — that have revealed how much plastic packaging they create as part of a drive for transparency by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,” The Guardian reports, noting the foundation is calling on major companies and governments to address plastic pollution.
— Toyota boosts investments in U.S. plants: Toyota Motor Corp. said it will invest $750 million in five plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia, a move that will add about 600 new jobs, the Associated Press reports. “Our overarching manufacturing principle is if we can sell it here we need to make it here. That’s been true before any tariff uncertainty, it’s true during tariff uncertainty and it will be true after,” Toyota Motor North America executive Chris Reynolds said in a call with reporters. “Our investment cycles go beyond any particular political cycle.”
— The road ahead for Tesla: Chief executive Elon Musk took the stage at an event in Los Angeles to unveil the electric carmaker’s Model Y, a smaller battery-powered SUV. It’s a big burden to place on the compact SUV as “executives also hope it will distract from practically everything else the car company has faced recently, from financial land mines to courtroom brawls to doubts over the survivability of Elon Musk as Tesla’s visionary marketer-in-chief,” The Post’s Drew Harwell reports. “Tesla’s fifth major auto debut in 15 years could prove to be its most important and profitable reveal.”
- The Environmental Law Institute holds an event on PG&E bankruptcy and implications for clean energy in California on March 18.
— If you live in the Washington area: You may have noticed the snow has subsided. In the last three weeks, the district has only had 0.3 inches. “In early February, we brought you news that the Washington area boasted the most snowfall among cities along Interstate 95 north to Boston,” The Post’s Ian Livingston reports. “That was still the case three weeks later. Then normalcy returned…Basically every location to our north and east saw more snow than we have, and often way more."