For the past four years, Zoe has looked out into crowds of hundreds of people and spoke about a future she dreams about—a future where she doesn’t have to wear a mask while playing outside, where smoke isn’t filling her loved ones’ lungs during Seattle summers, where she feels confident that her children will have a future on this planet.
Since she was 9 years old, this 13-year-old has been fueled by the urgency that is driving the climate crisis in Seattle. Every Friday she strikes from school at City Hall. Her weekends are filled with activism for the Green New Deal. And in two weeks, she is one of the many students across the nation and the state spearheading another Youth Climate Strike as organizers push to grow the events into an ongoing strike movement and align this next round in the effort to align with strikes planned around the world in September.
“I work on a lot of different issues, but it’s all intersectional,” Zoe said. “Climate change affects all things and all things affect the climate crisis.”
Localizing the movement: The Seattle strike will begin at 9 AM in Cal Anderson that Friday with a climate activism festival in the park. There will be live music and poetry, opportunities to learn about environmental activism and justice, ways to get involved and different segments where attendees can make art or signs to hold while marching.
At noon, the strike will transition into a march, where attendees will move from Cal Anderson to City Hall. At City Hall there will be a rally with speakers advocating to take action until 3 PM.
The strike is being planned by a coalition of climate groups and lead by youth organizers, including the Washington Youth Climate Strike, and Fridays for Future Seattle, the group Zoe and her peers strike with every Friday at City Hall. 350 Seattle, a group pushing for Green New Deal initiatives in the city, is also helping bring the strike together again. This time, the event aligns with a Global Climate Strike initiative hoped to inspire climate strikes around the world the week of September 20th.
Lily Frenette, a 23-year-old activist and Seattle coordinator for Sunrise Movement, said the overall tone of the strike is hopeful, but urgent.
“We have a lot of hope for the future that we can have,” Frenette said. “But in order to reach this future, we need to take action right now. We need to start building up momentum to make strong changes.”
This strike also offers an opportunity to start mobilizing people for the upcoming presidential election, 22-year-old activist Chloe Yeo said. It’s a way to start registering voters and sparking conversation about what kind of world the community wants to see for future generations.
The event follows another strike held in March at Cal Anderson that drew hundreds of students from around the area to Capitol Hill to cut school for a good cause. “We, the youth, will be voting very quickly,” one student said from the stage that Friday. “We need to be acting now. We don’t have any more time to waste.”
Since, Seattle has begun to build initiatives under its own Green New Deal to address climate change.
Organizers hope the strike will now grow in September.
Youth lead activism: Although Frenette and Yeo are both in their early 20s, they are some of the older organizers of this strike. For a lot of young organizers, Frenette said, the climate crisis has become a vital issue for their future. Youth feel the need to be involved and have a voice because younger generations know that they are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
“We found that there is a specific moral strength to young people speaking out because this future that we are going to be facing is significantly different than what everyone before us has gone through,” Frenette said.
Grace Lambert, a 17-year-old senior in high school, is the co-lead for Washington Youth Climate Strike. She’s been involved in climate crisis activism since February and has seen youth spearhead this movement throughout the world. While she finds it empowering, she is frustrated that it seems the younger generations are alone in taking this crisis by the reins.
“I love that it’s the youth doing the work, but I also hate it in the fact that it’s a lot to ask from us.” Lambert said. “It forces us to grow up a lot quicker than I think is fair.”
Being under the eligible age to vote can feel helpless, Yeo said, so a lot of youth take to activism because they feel an urgency to preserve their future.
Zoe shares this feeling of urgency that applies to her generation in particular, but she encourages everyone to find their place in climate activism. She said that while it is important to realize that some people may have a cushion from climate change effects, it’s not enough to barricade the force of the climate crisis from hitting you.
“It’s not my responsibility and I know that the adults should be the ones taking care of this and that I should be allowed to be a normal kid,” Zoe said. “But I have to take action or I am betraying my children and my friends and everybody I know.”
In addition to the strike in Cal Anderson, more strikes will be taking place throughout Washington on September 20th including rallies in Kirkland, Wenatchee, Olympia and Bellingham.
“Every person counts. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, how old you are, what your race is,” Zoe said. “Every person counts. We need everybody. We can’t afford to wait.”
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