For the second time this year, kids around the world are striking from school to demand action around climate change. And it’s happening just before world leaders gather at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City. There were only a handful of strikes in our region last time but this time there are several dozen.
Dylan Gray wants to be president when he grows up. But today, the 9-year-old is at the public library preparing artwork for the upcoming youth climate strike in his hometown of Colorado Springs.
“This world has been getting a little messed up and I think people need to acknowledge that,” he said. “I'd like things just to be normal. No trash, no oil spills, no polluted oceans.”
Working next to Gray is 15-year-old public school student Taylor Saulsbury.
“I heard that we only have 18 months to fix the world before it becomes irreversible, which is so scary,” Saulsbury said.
She’s here helping to paint signs for the strike, including a giant parachute that has the image of a burning earth at its center with the words, “Our house is on fire, act like it.” She said the parachute is symbolic of a kind of desperate hope.
Gray and Saulsbury are two among perhaps millions of kids around the world, and thousands around the Mountain West, planning to strike from school on Friday to demand action on climate change, a historic protest ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City on Monday.
Saulsbury, like so many others, has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, the world-famous 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden.
“She's constantly saying that this is a problem, but the way she says it makes you want to be involved,” Saulsbury said.
Thunberg traveled to the U.S. for the climate summit. On Thursday she testified before Congress on the climate crisis.
“People in general don’t seem to be very aware of the actual science and how severe this crisis actually is,” Thunberg told the House Climate Crisis Committee and a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. “So I just think we need to inform them and start treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is.”
“She's a girl who's my age and she's, like, causing global change,” said Anabelle Brown, a high school sophomore at a private school in Colorado Springs. “Oh my goodness, she's so cool!
Brown managed to convince her school’s administrators to allow three buses full of students to go to the Colorado Springs strike—nearly a half hour away from their campus. Though she’s faced detractors, even in her own family.
“I was talking with my grandmother, who I really love so much, about how I'm going to be speaking at the Colorado Springs Climate Strike,” Brown said. “And she started laughing at me. And I was really upset because it's something that really means a lot to me and it's something that I feel like everybody needs to care about in order to create change.”
Brown feels a duty to act. And that action, she said, has made her feel more powerful.
“One time I was walking during passing period and one kid stopped me and was like, ‘Oh my goodness, you're climate change girl!’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘You're in charge of climate change!’ And I was like, ‘No, not quite. But kind of!’”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Reno, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.
KRCC's Abigail Beckman contributed reporting to this story.