Inspired by Swedish teen, worldwide protest demands climate action
Millions of young people flooded the streets of cities around the world on Friday to demand political leaders take urgent steps to stop climate change, uniting in a worldwide protest inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Alarmed by images of the Greenland ice sheets melting and the Amazon rain forests burning, students and workers abandoned schools, shops and offices in nearly every corner of the globe, aiming to stop what they see as a looming environmental catastrophe.
The protests started in the Pacific islands, where rising sea levels threaten a way of life, and followed the rising sun across Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia and on to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. The coordinated student "strike" culminated in New York's Wall Street, where some investors have embraced the fossil fuel industry.
Massive crowds overwhelmed the streets of lower Manhattan, letting out roars of "Save our planet!" culminating in an address by Thunberg, who soared to prominence after sailing across the Atlantic in an emissions-free yacht ahead of next week's climate summit at the United Nations.
"This is an emergency," Thunberg told demonstrators in New York. "Our house is on fire. And it's not just the young people's house. We all live here. It affects all of us. And we will not just stand aside and watch. We are united behind the science and we will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse, even if that means skipping school or work, because this is more important. Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us? That is being stolen for profit? And some people say we should study to become climate scientists or politicians so that we can, in the future, solve the climate crisis. But by then it will be too late. We need to do this now."
Thunberg paused several times during the rally, as people in the crowd were aided by paramedics.
Worldwide concern has escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the international Paris Accord on climate change and took a series of steps to dismantle environmental protections, including moving on Thursday to block stricter vehicle emissions standards in California.