Thousands of students from around the world – and across New York City – walked out of class Friday to protest what many see as the most pressing issue of their time: catastrophic climate change.
The global climate action strike and walkout included students from more than 100 countries and has its roots in a 2018 protest in Sweden spearheaded by an idealistic 17-year-old named Greta Thunberg.
In New York City, crowds of school kids and college students took to more than a dozen locations in protest, including the Bronx High School of Science, City Hall and Columbus Circle.
Sam Walker, 19, a student at New York University, who’s originally from Utah, said he believes a Green New Deal is the only reasonable suggestion for trying to reduce the effects of the climate crisis.
“I think it’s extremely important given that young people are the ones predominantly going to be affected by climate change,” said Walker, who carried a sign reading “Our Time to Lead” to a protest that drew dozens of students to Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
“Just do something. Anything,” Walker added. “We need action now and it needs to be radical.”
Walker’s sense of urgency was shared by student demonstrators from all five boroughs and was also on display in massive overseas rallies that occurred simultaneous to those in New York.
In Berlin, police said as many as 20,000 protesters, most of them students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs reading “March now or swim later.”
Other European cities including Vienna, Madrid and Helsinki saw thousands of students turn out for demonstrations. Students walked out in India and South Africa as well.
The youths were motivated by what many are calling a looming global disaster caused by climate change.
Scientists and academics have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect.
The world’s average temperature has warmed by one degree Celsius since 2015 and is on track for an increase of four degrees, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.
New York City public school officials said that students are encouraged to take part in social activism, but kids who cut class Friday will be marked absent under standard attendance procedures.
“We encourage our students to raise their voices on issues that matter to them, and we also expect our students to be in attendance during the school day,” said Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.
“We’ve issued guidance to school communities, and encourage schools to have discussions on current events and about the importance of civic engagement,” Barbot added.