Youth climate strikers demand change


Kelsey Riemer

Protesters of all ages line up along the street in San Rafael with signs

A truck with a large exhaust pipe drives through a sea of student climate change protesters in downtown San Rafael, belching fumes into the crowd. This irony begs the question of what impact youth action has on the environment, and whether or not adults are listening. 

On Friday, Sept. 20, about four million people in over a thousand cities around the world marched to demand action against the global climate epidemic. Among these were 1.4 million students.

“Our parents will die of old age, we’ll die of climate change,” read one of the signs at the San Rafael strike. This particular strike was organized by Calliope Ruskin, 13, her sister Chloe Curtis-Pierce, 16, and their friends.

“We’re just trying to let people know that this is a problem and it needs to be solved, and I think people should have hope, but also don’t depend on our adults to make changes,” said Curtis-Pierce. 

Two protesters hold up signs on the side of the street (Kelsey Riemer)

Ruskin decided to have people make paper cranes at the rally and write messages about climate change on them to send to local representatives in hopes of catching their attention. “If everything was normal, we would be at school, but everything is not normal, and that is why we are here today,” said Ruskin in her speech at the rally, “we need to act, and act now.”

It’s not just marching that these students are doing to save their earth. Some of the students at the strike said that they bike to school, recycle and compost, limit their meat intake, avoid big companies that use large amounts of plastic, reduce their fast fashion purchases, as well as raise awareness by going to strikes. 

“We need to show politicians that if they don’t care, we’ll care for them,” said Chase Foltz, one of the few White Hill Middle School students at the rally.


We need to show politicians that if they don’t care, we’ll care for them”

— Chase Foltz


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not. I speak for the trees,” said seven year old Atticus LaFemina, quoting Dr. Suess’s The Lorax in his portion of the speech at the San Rafael rally. 

“Don’t be a fossil fool,” read one of the signs at the San Francisco rally, the largest rally in our area, with an estimated 40,000 attendees, according to CBS San Francisco. 

The voices of these students and many more are part of what led the United Nations to hold a youth climate summit on Sept. 21, the day after the global strikes. This was the first youth summit “completely devoted to climate action,” said the UN Youth Summit press release. 

One of the paper cranes made by a protester to send to local government officials (Kelsey Riemer)

At said gathering, youth activists from countries around the world came to New York to deliver the firm message that action has to be taken against climate change, and soon. 

“We will make them hear us. Change is coming, whether they like it or not,” said Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden at the forefront of the climate action movement, at the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23. 

While Thunberg speaks on a more global scale, catching the attention of world leaders isn’t the only focus for these youth protesters. During the strike, an employee from Sen. Mike McGuire’s (D-CA) office announced to the strikers that the youth action gives her and the Senator hope. She then proceeded to thank everyone there for speaking out.

“No one is treating climate change with the urgency that it needs to be treated,” said Hayley Ballard, a Drake freshman and a strong supporter of the climate action movement, at the San Rafael rally. “We do care, and this is important to us, and we will act.”