A day of youth-led climate action
So this was the scene just after noon on March 15. Around 200 people gathered on the southside steps of the Indiana Statehouse, the majority of them high school aged or younger. I have been on this same spot numerous times for climate related rallies. They are largely a disappointment, under-attended and sometimes downright lackluster. Maybe I’m just a bit jaded after the years of hoping the world would wake up to global warming.
It appears this might actually be happening. For a few months now, kids have been skipping school on Fridays, worldwide, in an effort to call leaders to leadership on decarbonizing our human footprint. The numbers have been astonishing in other countries: tens of thousands of young people taking to the streets to raise the alarm. Not so inspiring in the U.S.
March 15 was the day of reckoning for the U.S. young people to get in the game. Globally, according to organizers, over 2000 protests were staged in 125 countries, totaling over a million participants. The U.S. numbers are not clear as of this writing. I do know kids from Central Indiana took part in this protest (see above), from numerous high schools and even a couple middle schools. I also know my hometown of South Bend held their own rally. Here’s the small but mighty group who gathered:
I tell you what’s really beautiful about these #climatestrike rallies for me, personally: I had nothing to do with them. After almost six years at Earth Charter Indiana working with youth on devising ways to address the climate challenge, it was lovely to be a spectator at someone else’s event. This was truly youth led. Check out this IndyStar story.
As you can imagine, there were complexities regarding the ‘skipping school’ part. Parents had to be supportive and had to communicate to officials their kids weren’t going to be at school. Some schools decided to use the #climatestrike event as a teaching moment. One such school is CFI27, downtown Indianapolis.
The middle schoolers at this IPS school were already engaged in learning about climate impacts. On the evening of January 31, they held an event for the community called “Climate Change and the Art of Data.” Part of Indianapolis’ Thriving Schools Challenge program, the event featured science fair-style displays detailing climate impacts like coral reef bleaching and Arctic melt — with an artistic twist.
CFI27 students decided to take this earlier project to the next level and seize the #climatestrike moment to turn their school into a climate classroom. All afternoon, hundreds of younger students played games and challenges created by their fellow, older, students. Supported by science teacher Lori Baker, along with other faculty and school administration, one student, Warnaesha, an 8th grader, organized this day of fun and learning.
Earth Charter Indiana doesn’t endorse kids skipping school. We believe schools are part of the solution, especially if they become more active, from incorporating climate literacy across the curriculum to creating waste-reducing initiatives like no-idling and zero waste cafeterias. CFI27’s event, consequently, is something ECI can fully support, as the middle schoolers took on the role of teachers throughout the afternoon, educating their peers and near-peers — the younger ones — on this most vital issue. Here are some samples of the activities they featured:
I don’t know what was more thrilling to me, the Indiana Statehouse rally or the CFI27 event. I suppose they are both essential components of a complex scenario where we elevate the voice of young people in the debate over the fate of our living systems. Science predicts endless extreme weather, mass extinction, and a sad desperate existence for those humans who survive.
True, there’s so much bad news, science-based, I can hardly look at it anymore. After over a decade of paying close attention to the apocalyptic predictions, Friday, March 15, will be a day I carry with me to the end of my carbon-emitting time here on earth, the day the kids stood up and said enough is enough.