Plan(et) B—But What About My Global Test?!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Issue 4, Volume 110

By Clara Shapiro 

“The oceans are rising and so are we!”

On the morning of the Climate Strike, Foley Square was almost empty, freckled with the lone group of youth activists and 350.org organizers. Among these early-bird environmentalists was senior Grace Goldstein, who had been involved in planning the strike for months. She wondered if people would show up. Just hours later, at least 60,000 climate crusaders exploded onto the streets, among them an estimated 500 Stuyvesant students. At Foley Square, the capital of the protest, students merged with the urban mass, joining a colorful fray of signage. “I’m sure the dinosaurs thought they had time” read a particularly caustic poster.

The unexpected deluge of protestors—organizers had anticipated only 5,000—pleasantly surprised senior Alexandra Nobert, who had helped plan Stuyvesant’s involvement in the protest alongside her peers Goldstein and senior Cecilia Bachana.

“I was thrilled,” Nobert said. “No one expected that many people to show up.” Assistant Principal of Security/Health & P.E. Brian Moran shared this experience. “A little more than I thought it would have been,” he said about the student outpour.

Though to a harried administration the strike might have felt like an en masse field trip, most students elected to stay at school, perhaps worried by the idea of potential academic repercussions. “There are some important notes,” freshman Peng Tou-Du reasoned. “I didn’t wanna miss class.” He added that on top of his academic concerns, he “didn’t feel like it.”

Adopting this sense of didn’t-feel-like-it apathy for their purposes, some students attended the Climate Strike simply because it was an alternative to school, not because of their passion for environmental reform. “I had nothing better to do!” sophomore Michelle Quach said. “I’m not a super-activist, but I didn’t go [to the strike] because I wanted to skip school. It just seemed more interesting.”

Even if not everyone attended the strike out of a Thunberg-esque passion for reform, Nobert believes that any motive is preferable to doing nothing. “Apathy is probably the cause of most resistance to climate policy,” Nobert theorized. “Creating an environment where people are inspired and empowered, where people feel like they can make a difference, works to change that apathy into motivation.”

But for some high-achievers, apathy was the last thing likely to be their hamartia, as the Climate Strike forced students to weigh their passion for environmental justice against their passion for perfect attendance.

For junior Sabira Tasneem, the protest easily took precedence over any academic assessments scheduled for that day. “In Japanese, I had a quiz, but I still went to the strike,” she said. “I could always make up a quiz or test, but you can’t really make up a whole strike.”

For others, academics won out against environmental protest, as was the case with an anonymous freshman who had a test on the day of the strike. “Both [the Climate Strike and my test] are equally important,” they said, though they had chosen to stay at school for their assessment. “Climate change is real, and there should be things done.”

Nobert believes that there are ways for everybody to take part in the climate revolution—to do things instead of waiting for things to be done. And “doing things” doesn’t even need to mean striking. Nobert said, “You don’t need to attend every action to be serious about the climate crisis. I haven’t!” Nobert reminds students that opportunities to advocate for the climate are still available. “There are still more global rallies being planned! The next big one is on December 6, and there is a global ‘Day of Action’ on November 29. There will likely be a large clothing swap in all five boroughs in response to Black Friday consumerism. There are also plenty of actions that happen regularly, organized by a bunch of different environmental groups like Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, Zero Hour, 350…”

Mark your calendars? Perhaps.