Youth Climate Strike

Youth and some adults gathered in Penn Square to take part in Youth Climate Strike to protest the government’s failure to take action to stop climate change Friday, Mar. 15, 2019. The group then walked to Congressman Lloyd Smuckers office.

THE ISSUE

About 30 people, many of them students, gathered in Lancaster city’s Penn Square on Friday to call on lawmakers to take more immediate and aggressive action to counteract the man-made aspects of climate change. It was just one of many international demonstrations by students that day. “From the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, angry students in more than 100 countries walked out of classes to protest what they see as the failures by their governments,” The Associated Press reported.

“What Will I Be Telling My Kids?”

“#YouthClimateStrike”

“Denial is not a policy”

“Make Earth Cool Again”

“There is no Planet B”

These were among the slogans on the handmade signs that students from across Lancaster County displayed Friday in Penn Square. Their local numbers were relatively small, but they were part of a growing worldwide chorus of young people — including more than 150,000 across Europe that day, per the AP — who are concerned about the future of Earth’s climate.

The message is clear.

The planet is warming rapidly, and we must respond faster.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, began staging demonstration last year to decry the lack of action to combat climate change. Since then, the AP reports, “the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, fueled by dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change during the students’ lifetime.” Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Climate change is an existential crisis, Thunberg says. We agree. This is a pivotal turning point. In December, we stated: “We, as individual citizens, must be examples and leaders, too. We must change our consumption habits, pivot toward renewable energy and be willing to make inconvenient adjustments to our fossil-fueled lifestyles. We can do these things. Or we can doom our descendants, starting with those who have already been born, to a likely future of devastating hurricanes, droughts, crop disasters, food shortages, health epidemics and coastal flooding across the globe.”

And so we praise students — here and across the world — for standing up and getting loud on this issue.

Thunberg’s movement, #FridaysForFuture, is a peaceful and appropriate way for young people to make their voices heard.

“This is the generation that’s going to have to deal with that,” Ashton Clatterbuck, a senior at The Stone Independent School, told LancasterOnline’s Ty Lohr on Friday. Students from multiple schools took part in the protest, and afterward, Lohr reported, “the students marched to Republican Congressman Lloyd Smucker’s office to deliver a letter.”

That letter, Clatterbuck told Lohr, asked Smucker to “take serious action steps to create a bill or a resolution that will curb climate change in the drastic ways that we need to see.”

Drastic measures are needed. The Guardian reported last week that a sharp rise in Arctic temperatures is now inevitable — even if the worldwide greenhouse-gas emission cutbacks called for in the 2016 Paris Agreement are achieved. We are on the verge of a runaway warming event, scientists say. According to The Guardian, “Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming.”

Indeed, there is no Planet B.

Friday’s worldwide demonstrations did not go unnoticed.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they inspired him to call for a special summit later this year. In an op-ed for The Guardian, he wrote: “These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders: We are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing — we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial. My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”

What they are doing is a true wonder.

“There (is) a crisis in front of us that we have to live with, that we will have to live with for all our lives, our children, our grandchildren and all future generations,” Thunberg said, per the AP. “We are on strike because we do want a future.”

We should all want a future.

Students and children cannot write the laws needed to slow or reverse climate change. But they can urge — and keep urging — our leaders to prioritize and pass such legislation.

They’re doing their part.

We should join and support them.

Every Friday, if need be.