Ally MacConchie, Copy Editor
NEW YORK – Sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg started school sit-outs last year as a way to bring attention to climate change. She began protesting by sitting on the steps of the Swedish Parliament building as onlookers scoffed, thinking she couldn’t make a change. Now, a year later, school walkouts are happening all around the world, and Greta is a household name in Europe and the United States.
On Sept. 20, 2019, eco-conscious individuals took to the streets of lower Manhattan to demand a change in climate policy. The NYC Climate Strike involved tri-state area students who skipped class, young adults who left work and people of all ages who wanted to send a message to politicians.
New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, gave NYC students permission to miss their classes, barring the schools from penalizing them.
De Blasio’s office estimates over 60,000 attendees, while organizers of the march claim there were greater numbers in attendance.
Three days later, Sept. 23, Thunberg spoke to world leaders at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit. “My message is that we’ll be watching you,” she began. “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope,” Thunberg continued. “How dare you!” Her words were poignant, evoking a feeling of sadness in the crowd.
In her four-and-a-half-minute long speech, she provided scientific facts, stating the idea of cutting emissions in half in 10 years only allows us a 50% chance to prevent a catastrophic climate chain-reaction. She stressed that chance is not acceptable to our generation, as we are the ones that must face the consequences of earlier generations’ actions.
Thunberg stated that the reason we are so behind in what we should be doing is because people are too afraid to face reality. She told the U.N. attendees that their procrastination and resistance to facing the facts is immature, and they’re running out of time to correct those wrongs.
“We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up,” she concluded, “and change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
There are many ways Bergen students are contributing to that change, like using stations for refilling water bottles and purchasing online textbooks to save paper. Bergen also provides students with a shuttle bus to travel between Lyndhurst and Paramus, cutting down on the carbon footprint of many vehicles traveling at once. In the cafeteria, there’s a program run by the AVE Club to compost food waste with the school’s rocket composter.
Whether you’re a teenager from Sweden starting a movement or a college student joining in, you can always make a difference to protect the environment.