“Momentum Behind Sentiment”: Students Strike Against Climate Change
Reading Time: 3 minutes
“Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. It’s an all-encompassing problem that is affecting everyone all across the world,” senior Alex Nobert said. Nobert was one of approximately 50 Stuyvesant students who walked out on December 6 to participate in the New York City Climate Strike. Students marched from City Hall to Foley Square, holding posters and wearing red. Students attended a rally at Foley Square, which featured a variety of speakers, including representatives from climate activism organizations. An estimated total of 2000 people participated in the strike.
The strike was a follow-up to the September 20 New York City Climate Strike, during which 315,000 students walked out, including about 500 students from Stuyvesant. Both strikes were organized by Fridays For Future NYC, a local chapter of the larger Fridays For Future organization founded by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Whereas the strike on September 20 occurred the day before the United Nations (UN) Climate Summit, the December 6 strike corresponded with the 2019 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 25th UN climate change conference, in Madrid, Spain.
Compared to the strike on September 20, this strike was significantly smaller. “It [was] a good size for a rally. It was smaller, but it was substantial,” Nobert said. While the September 20 strike was planned about two months in advance, the December 6 strike was only organized in the few weeks leading up to the event; Norbert attributes the decrease in participants to this.
This strike also had a different goal than the September 20 strike; organizers aimed to connect already passionate students with climate activism organizations that spoke during the rally, instead of trying to inspire action within apathetic students. “The main goal was to recruit people [who] are already interested in doing specific things,” Nobert said. “It’s really just getting momentum behind sentiment.”
After the speeches at the rally, students had the opportunity to talk with members of climate activism organizations to get a better sense of how they could get involved and to ask questions about the organizations’ work.
Senator Chuck Schumer also spoke during the rally. “Chuck Schumer came to speak, which was really important, especially since he hadn’t signed onto the Green New Deal, and so that was a really big deal to gain leverage to get him to sign and endorse that,” senior Camille Sadoff, a participant in the strike, said.
However, not everyone perceived the strike as a success; many wished the strike was more structured. “It wasn’t executed properly. Offering some people some sort of opportunity to cut class is not the same thing as organizing and changing the cost-benefit. If you have just a bunch of students, we are not changing anything for people who would be in charge of making any sort of policy that could fix such an issue,” freshman Jacob Kirmayer said.
Despite the decrease in planning compared to the September 20 strike and the smaller number of participants, organizers believe strikes are beneficial, as they help change public attitudes toward climate change. “If you can get people to see that there are solutions and that there are groups backing those solutions, they’re more likely to support them,” Nobert said. “At this point, any solution involves a lot of widespread change. You need the general public to support that change before you can really effectively get those things done.”
The consistency of such strikes is also essential in evoking change. “It’s just one of many strikes in the large scheme of things. Having multiple and not stopping is important because we are unrelenting,” Nobert said. “This problem isn’t going to go away, and people won’t stop caring. Any strike is important.”
Sadoff agreed, saying, “Our education is meaningless if we don’t have a planet to live on. [...] The message that we’re not gonna stop is important and a success in itself.”