Hundreds of thousands of young people are walking out of school today in protest of the older generations’ failure to address the looming threat of climate change.
The movement, known as Fridays for Future, initially started with a 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who held a months-long protest outside the Swedish Parliament last year after the hottest summer on record. It’s since swept the world, with teens and pre-teens around the globe staging school strikes of their own — in the U.K., for instance, tens of thousands of youths stormed out of class and took to the streets last month.
Today’s protest will take place in over 1,000 cities in 100 countries around the world. In the U.S., the first-ever Youth Climate Strike, as it’s being called, was organized by three girls: Alexandria Villasenor, and Haven Coleman, and Isra Hirsi, a 16-year-old activist who’s also the daughter of Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
As far back as she can remember, Hirsi says she’s been aware that we’re in the midst of a global climate crisis. In middle school, environmental issues started to weigh more heavily on her mind; in high school, she started attending protests and getting involved with her school’s green club. But when Coleman reached out to her via Instagram DM to see if she would help organize the main U.S. action of the Youth Climate Strike, she was still utterly shocked.
“We cannot waste another minute waiting for the adults to step up.”
Getty Images: Cindy Ord / Stringer
On March 15, more than 1.5 million students in 120 countries left school to protest the inaction of adults and politicians on one of the most pressing issues facing their generation: climate change. Inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who began striking outside the Swedish parliament building last year (and was later awarded a Nobel Prize), young people around the globe have built a massive movement for climate justice — and they’re not done yet.
On Friday, May 3, 13-year-old Haven Coleman and her US Youth Climate Strike co-founders, Isra Hirsi and Alexandria Villaseñor, will once again encourage students to fight for our futures and for our planet. In the second round of US Youth Climate Stikes, thousands of young activists and students across the country will skip school and continue to speak truth to power.
Find a climate strike near you and join Haven in holding lawmakers accountable on environmental issues. Looking for inspiration? Read our conversation with her from March.
Isra Hirsi Is 16, Unbothered, and Saving the Planet
ALL PHOTOS BY AWA MALLY
Outside First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, a Black Lives Matter poster hangs, wilted in the sun, above a crowd of Minnesotans waiting eagerly to enter. The group is an unusual mashup: mostly teenagers and those who would qualify for the senior special at IHOP, both cohorts outfitted in political pins, caps, and T-shirts. As I sit on the steps of the church, a man with salt-white hair hands me an informative flyer about the Green New Deal. It’s as if whatever activism bug bit the flower children has come out of hibernation to infect Gen Z.
Inside, an environmental justice event hosted by U.S. congresswoman Ilhan Omar is about to start. The venue is packed, and a local pop-punk band called Butter Boys has just finished its opening set. Juwaria Jama, a 15-year-old activist scheduled to speak alongside Omar, nervously walks over to the pew to chat with her friend, fellow teen activist Raina Meyer. After, a middle-aged white woman leans over to Meyer with a giddy, starstruck look on her face: “Was that Ilhan Omar’s daughter?”
She’s referring to Jama, who is Black and wears the hijab. But Jama looks nothing like Isra Hirsi, Omar’s actual daughter.
Isra, meanwhile, is standing in the back of the church, awaiting her cue to give the closing statement. When it’s time, she introduces herself as the co-executive director of a group called U.S. Youth Climate Strike, leaving out her relation to Omar. The climate crisis, she tells the crowd, “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”
On stage, Isra reads off her candy-colored phone through tortoise shell glasses. Her wrist is wrapped in a green scrunchie that matches her striped green and blue tee. She speaks quickly but confidently, just as she does off-stage. She’s 16 (though her bright eyes and soft complexion make her look arguably younger), but she doesn’t smile or stutter nervously through her words. She hasn’t been doing this long; she’s a natural.