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“Young People Have Had Enough”: Global Climate Strike Youth Activists on Why They Are Marching Today

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Today is the Global Climate Strike, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. As people took to the streets in Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia, we host a roundtable discussion with youth activists organizing marches in the United States — in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis — ahead of next week’s U.N. Climate Action Summit. We are joined by Xiye Bastida, a 17-year-old climate justice activist originally from Mexico who is an organizer with Fridays for Future New York and a student at Beacon High School in New York; Katie Eder, a 19-year-old climate justice activist who founded the Future Coalition, where she is currently the executive director; Juwaria Jama, a 15-year-old and first-generation Somali from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who is with U.S. Youth Climate Strikes and is the co-state lead for the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike; and Isra Hirsi, a high school junior and executive director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, daughter of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Young climate activists around the world are taking to the streets today for a Global Youth Climate Strike, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and her weekly School Strike for the Climate. Faced with an uncertain future, last year Greta started skipping school every Friday to stand outside the Swedish parliament demanding climate action. Her weekly act of protest quickly went viral, and the movement has since gone global.

As part of today’s global strike, tens of thousands have already marched in more than 100 towns and cities across Australia, where organizers estimate more than 300,000 protesters took to Australian streets alone in what would be Australia’s biggest demonstration since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Protests were also held in Africa, Asia and Europe. More than 500 cities are planned in Germany alone, where today Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to announce a package of measures to reduce Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are voices from Sydney, Thailand and Nairobi.

VARSHA YAJMAN: We haven’t seen any governmental action being taken since the last strike. And that means that we’re going to keep fighting for the sustainability that we deserve and that we need and the economic stability that we also want for our world. The idea that renewable energy can be the alternative, that is the only option.

NICOLE: This isn’t a fringe movement. This isn’t a greeny issue. This isn’t a lefty issue. This is a human issue. And it’s terrific to see all these everyday, normal workers, students, moms, dads, kids, babies here supporting the strike.

NANTICHA OCHAROENCHAI: A lot of youth can’t vote. They don’t have decision-making power in fossil fuel investments or plastic use, you know. But what the youth can do is talk about the problem and make noise about it and demand it from the people who can create a change.

KELLY ROBERT BANDA: Climate change is real, and it’s coming for us. And it doesn’t matter who you are. Whether you are rich or poor, this thing is real, and it doesn’t isolate.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from some of the hundreds of actions happening around the world as part of today’s Global Youth Climate Strike.

More than 800 protests are planned in the United States, including here in New York City, where young people, environmental activists are gathering for a massive march, just days ahead of Monday’s United Nations Climate Action Summit taking place here as part of its U.N. General Assembly meeting. Greta Thunberg is expected to speak at the summit on Monday, but today she’ll address what’s expected to be a massive protest in New York City, where public school students will be allowed to attend as long as they have a permission slip. Democracy Now! will be out on the streets with them.

But right now we’re joined by a roundtable of youth climate activists to talk about today’s actions and the youth-led movement to fight the climate crisis. We’re going to start here in New York. We have two guests. Xiye Bastida is a climate justice activist, originally from Mexico, and an organizer with Fridays for Future New York. She’s a student at Beacon High School. And Katie Eder is founder of the Future Coalition, where she’s currently the executive director.

Katie, talk about the plan for the global strike today, where it came from, what you expect to see. And thank you for coming in before you go out on the streets.

KATIE EDER: Yeah. Thank you so much for having us. So, today, young people and adults across the world will be joining together to strike from school and work to demand climate action. This is the third international strike, deep strike, that we’re having. And young people have had enough. We’re not going to sit around and watch our futures be destroyed before our eyes. We’re going to stand up and do something.

AMY GOODMAN: And why did you get involved with this?

KATIE EDER: You know, our future is being threatened. You know, the U.N. IPCC report that was released last November says that we have 'til 2030 to change our trajectory, before we see irreversible effects of the climate crisis. And adults aren't taking action. Our elected officials, our world leaders, they don’t seem to be treating like — they don’t seem to be treating this like the emergency that it is. And so, we have to show them. We have to tell them that they need to do something.

AMY GOODMAN: Where are you originally from?

KATIE EDER: I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what’s happening there.

KATIE EDER: In Wisconsin today, there are young people all across the state who are striking. In Milwaukee and Madison, there are both massive strikes that young people are attending to call on our governor to take climate action.

AMY GOODMAN: Xiye Bastida, I bumped into you when Greta Thunberg was taking that zero-emissions, high-speed sailboat on that two-week journey from Europe to the United States. As she came into New York Harbor, you were there to greet her and address the thousand people who were in the New York Harbor waiting for her. You’re from Beacon High School.


AMY GOODMAN: Why did you get involved with this?

XIYE BASTIDA: So, my story goes way back. And I would say a lot of climate activists today didn’t know we were climate activists until someone else called us that. I think that, personally, I’ve always cared about the environment, and I’ve always done my best, but it wasn’t labeled until recently. And for me, it was the power that I thought an individual voice had, which was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s message.

And I also suffered the climate crisis myself. So, when I was 13 years old in Mexico, in my town, my town suffered from heavy rainfall, and that also caused our river there to overflow, which had heavy contamination because of the factories that are near there. And so, that was the first time that I saw the climate crisis firsthand.

And it didn’t really hit me that this was such a global issue until I came to New York City and I saw the effects that Hurricane Sandy had had on Long Island. And that was the moment where I realized that the climate crisis not only can follow you everywhere but is happening everywhere and affecting low-income communities and communities of color the most.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you start doing?

XIYE BASTIDA: So, I became leader of my Environmental Club school. I started taking kids out to Albany and City Hall to listen to hearings and lobby our elected officials. And then, when we heard about the climate strike, that was when I thought, you know, “This is what we need to do to tackle this crisis as the emergency it is.” And for the first Global Climate Strike on March 15th, I got 600 of my peers to walk out to Columbus Circle for the first climate strike.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you hear right now about activists in Mexico, where you come from?

XIYE BASTIDA: I’m actually very happy to see the activism that is going on in Mexico. In Mexico City, there is a large presence of Fridays for Future Mexico. And actually, one of the activists there moved to New York City, and he was one of the lead organizers, and now he’s marching with us. And he is updating us about what’s going on in Mexico, which is part of a global movement, I feel.

AMY GOODMAN: And as an indigenous young woman, talk about the indigenous leadership of the global climate movement, even though you said you didn’t really think of it as climate activism, but as just being an activist for the sustainability of the planet.

XIYE BASTIDA: Yeah. For indigenous people, taking care of the Earth is not a movement. It’s a culture. And that’s what I want to see out of these strikes and out of our pressure. This shouldn’t be a movement. This shouldn’t be something that has momentum. It should be something that we live with every day. And so, indigenous peoples’ cosmology is that you take care of the Earth because the Earth takes care of you. And you need reciprocity. You need to give back.

And right now I’m seeing a lot of indigenous voices being lifted up, including in today’s global strike. And we’re saying all that knowledge of taking care of the Earth for thousands of years is so important, because the environmental movement didn’t start 60 years ago. It’s always been here.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, before the massive gathering at Foley Square, which will then head to Battery Park, where the major talks will be, first indigenous young people will be speaking out, and then international students.

XIYE BASTIDA: Yes, we’re going to have a land acknowledgment to open the strike. And part of the global youth who are going to be at the front of the march are going to include indigenous people from Brazil, who have come and visited us to talk about what’s going on in Brazil.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you be a part of that?


AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and then, when we come back, oh, we’re going to Washington, we’re going to Minneapolis, and we will break the sound barrier with a student who applied for a visa to come to the United States, fully paid by the United Nations. Seven thousand people applied; he was chosen. He’s from Afghanistan, though he’s studying in a high school in Phuket, Thailand. He had to fly from Phuket to even apply for his visa, and he was just denied. But he’ll speak to us, as well. Our guests are Xiye Bastida, organizer with Fridays for the Future; Katie Eder, founder of the Future Coalition, where she’s currently executive director. And you’ll be meeting so many others. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Climate Strike” by the indie Australian band When Our Turn Comes. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. On Monday night, Amnesty International presented its 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award to 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement. This is Greta speaking.

GRETA THUNBERG: Right now I think there is an awakening going on. Even though it is slow, the pace is picking up, and the debate is shifting. This is thanks to a lot of different reasons, but it is a lot because of countless of activists, and especially young activists. Activism works. So what I am telling you to do now is to act, because no one is too small to make a difference. I am urging all of you to take part in the Global Climate Strikes on September 20th and 27th. And just one last thing: See you on the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Greta Thunberg speaking Monday night: “See you on the streets.” And those streets, well, they are filling up all over the world today. That’s right, young climate activists are taking to the streets for the Global Climate Strike, inspired by Greta and her weekly School Strike for the Climate, protests already underway in Australia and Europe, Asia and Africa.

We’re hosting a roundtable discussion with some of the organizers. Here in New York, we’re joined by Xiye Bastida, organizer with Fridays for Future New York. She’s at Beacon High School. Katie Eder is founder of the Future Coalition, where she’s currently the executive director. She’s from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Joining us in Minneapolis, Isra Hirsi, is the executive director and co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She also happens to be the daughter of Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar. Also in Minneapolis, Juwaria Jama is with the U.S. Climate Strikes and is the co-state lead for the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike.

Isra Hirsi, I want to start with you. Talk about what’s happening in Minneapolis.

ISRA HIRSI: Yeah. So, here in Minneapolis, we’re actually having a strike start at a park where we’re going to be marching to our state Capitol in St. Paul. And we’re starting at 11:30, and we’re going to be having speakers starting at 12:30, with speakers from environmental orgs in the state of Minnesota, as well as students. And then we’re expecting to have booths, and then an escalated action later, after the speakers are done.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Isra, how did you get involved with this whole — with the whole movement? How did you become executive director of U.S. Youth Climate Strike as a high school junior?

ISRA HIRSI: Yeah. At the time, I was actually a high school sophomore. And in late January of this past — of this year, I was contacted through Instagram to organize for the climate strike for March 15th, because nobody was organizing nationwide. And so, from there, I decided to help organize and help co-found this group with two other individuals. And then, from there, I ended up being able to become the executive director of this group.

AMY GOODMAN: If you could also talk about what activism means? You certainly come from a legendary line of activists. Your mother, of course, is Congressmember Ilhan Omar. Did her activism inspire you?

ISRA HIRSI: Yeah. At a really young age, my mother and my father took me to protests, starting in the first grade. They got me involved with campaigns, and we continued going to protests as a family. Activism has always been a part of my life. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve been entirely inspired; she’d probably say that I’ve inspired her. But, you know, being in a family where activism is really valued has definitely helped shape to where I am today.

AMY GOODMAN: Juwaria Jama, you’re sitting next to Isra, you, too, with the U.S. Youth Climate Strikes. You’re co-state lead for the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike. Explain how you got involved, why the climate, why sustainability, is so important to you.

JUWARIA JAMA: Yeah. So, I recently got involved in environmental activism and in the climate justice movement this past year, after witnessing the effects of climate change on my own community. I currently live in like a predominantly African-American and low-income community where we are right next to intersecting highways and also pollution by fossil fuel factories in Minneapolis. And a lot of that has affected the health of the people in my community, and it’s affected myself and my family directly. And being able to witness these effects have gotten me inspired to get more people involved and to get more people to understand the effects of climate change and how they’ve disproportionately affected people of color and how we need to change the narrative, focus it on people of color, and continue building this movement and power.

AMY GOODMAN: You are both Somali Americans. Talk about the effect of climate change, of global warming, on Somalia.

ISRA HIRSI: Yeah. So, in the past few years, Somalia has had extreme amounts of droughts. In 2017, they had an extreme, severe drought, where thousands — hundreds of thousands of people were affected and were becoming extremely food-insecure. And these droughts happen very constantly in Somalia. And those impacts have impacted both of our communities and our families that live out there. And these are continuously happening because of the climate crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: And Juwaria?

JUWARIA JAMA: I would like to add that —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, Juwaria.

JUWARIA JAMA: I’d like to add that especially like me being from North Minneapolis, I’ve seen the effects in both Somalia and also in my community at home. I’ve seen the way in which air pollution has affected, you know, like my health, but also the ways in which these droughts and food shortages, as Isra mentioned, affect our family back home.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Juwaria, what do you say to the president of the United States? You were born in Somalia [sic]. You came here to the United States as a refugee. You’re deeply involved with the climate movement right now. President Trump is a proud climate change denier.

JUWARIA JAMA: So, I was actually born in the United States, but my parents were immigrants from Somalia. And I would say, especially talking about the climate justice movement and climate change, that our president really needs to act for us and act for the people that are being affected. We need presidents and we need lawmakers that are interested in really making change for people that are directly affected, and not doing money laundering and for people in power.

AMY GOODMAN: And your message, Isra, to the president, who, as one of the most powerful people on Earth, occupying the presidency of the United States, has called climate change a Chinese hoax?

ISRA HIRSI: Yeah. So, President Trump, your actions are actually harming people. Millions of people across this country are being impacted by the inaction that you’re not taking. And us young people are not going to stand down and allow this inaction to continue. We will continue to be on the streets until we see some change from your office, unless — and from there, we are going to be voting you out, because we need a leader that is actually going to take action on this incredible crisis.

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