Around 300 Columbia and Barnard students marched in a climate strike with thousands of other young activists—including Swedish teen Greta Thunberg—in New York on Friday as part of a global movement to protest climate change. Strike organizers estimated a turnout of 250,000 protesters in New York while the Mayor’s Office estimated 60,000. Organizers also estimated there were 4 million strikers from over 150 countries worldwide.
The global movement comes just three days before the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, where global leaders will be discussing the climate change crisis and how to reduce climate disruption. Thunberg began the climate strike movement in August 2018, when she became famous for skipping class to protest for climate change in front of the Swedish Parliament’s main building.
The Sunrise Movement at Columbia, a student-led group that aims to combat climate change and make it a global priority, helped mobilize the Columbia and Barnard students at Low Steps before the strike began. Sunrise Columbia co-sponsored a similar strike last March.
Elizabeth Love, CC ’22 and co-hub coordinator of Sunrise Columbia, said she was very excited about the climate strike.
“Climate change is a crisis, and if everybody doesn’t stand up and begin to treat it like a crisis, it’s something that is an existential threat to, not the next generation, but our generation,” Love said. “This is the time to get involved, it’s do-or-die at this point.”
From Low Steps, students proceeded downtown to join the other protesters at Foley Square. The crowd included many students of all ages, who were given leave from public school if they participated in the strike.
Children and young adults came wielding homemade cardboard signs alluding to the current Amazon rainforest fires and the Green New Deal. Students chanted various sayings such as “Climate change is not a lie! Please don’t let our planet die!” and “Let us live!”
Many Columbia and Barnard students, including Eden Rosenbloom, BC ’23, felt motivated to become involved in climate activism.
“It is my choice to be here, but it doesn’t even feel like a choice anymore,” Rosenbloom said. “It feels like if we don’t act now, then there will be nothing for us in our future. It’s our responsibility to make it as known as possible how desperately we need change.”
Spencer Bruce, SEAS ’21, felt a similar responsibility to participate but noted that not all students at Columbia shared the same sentiment.
“There are a lot of students [at Columbia] that are either uneducated or really don’t care about the environment all that much,” Bruce said. “Although that does translate to small-scale things like use of single-use plastics and disposing of things that are recyclable, it’s also just a general disinterest for it, and I think it’s past the point where it’s something that can be overlooked.”
Marchers walked from Foley Square south toward Battery Park, where a rally was held at 3p.m. Speakers at the rally included a variety of people such as 19-year-old Artemisa Xakriabá, an indigenous activist from Brazil, and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist and CEO of the ocean conservation group Ocean Collectiv. The rally also featured musical performances by Willow and Jaden Smith.
Thunberg, who arrived in New York three weeks ago via an emission-free yacht, concluded the speeches, urging politicians to take greater action on climate change.
“We have not taken to the streets, sacrificing our education, for the adults and politicians to take selfies with us and tell us that they really, really admire what we do. We are doing this to wake the leaders up; we are doing this to get them to act,” Thunberg said. “We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?”
Staff writer Teddy Ajluni can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Katriel Tolin can be contacted at email@example.com.
Note: Spencer Bruce is a former graphic designer at Spectator.